Thursday, June 26, 2008

Is the Death Penalty Logical?

One of my very best friends in the Atheosphere is a guy who prides himself on always being logical. I can picture him constructing syllogisms while at the butcher's, deciding which cut of meat to buy for barbecuing.

Recently, in light of yesterday's decision in Kennedy v. Louisiana, my pal made a claim that he could use his razor-sharp logic to defend the death penalty, a punishment which, apparently, he finds just peachy. I don't think it's possible for a reasonable atheist to do that.

The following proof of my statement is not elegant. It relies on far too many definitions, premises, and conclusions, but it is, I believe, logically sound.

Definitions
Definition 1: Murder is the willful killing of another human being.
Definition 2: Self-defense is the use of physical force to stave of violence against oneself only (1) while such violence is being perpetrated or (2) at the moment when the threat of violence is imminent.
Definition 3: An execution is the willful killing of another human being, performed by an official body, such as the government.
Definition 4: Revenge is the infliction of harm on a person who has, or is perceived to have, done a harm.
Definition 5: A primal urge is an unthinking, instinctual action, most likely the result of evolutionary development.
Definition 6: An atheist is a person who does not believe in the existence of any gods.
Definition 7: A reasonable person is an individual who does not rely on conclusions that can’t be drawn logically.
Premises
Premise 1: Murder is morally wrong.
Premise 2: Murder is justifiable when done in self-defense.
Premise 3: Murder is “worst” when done with pre-meditation and malice aforethought.
Premise 4: Executions are pre-meditated and performed with malice aforethought.
Premise 5: An incarcerated person is not actually perpetrating violence, nor does he or she pose an imminent threat.
Premise 6: Revenge is a passionate act, driven by a primal urge, not reason.
Premise 7: Humans, both individually and within groups, have the ability to resist primal urges.
Premise 8: Executions in the United States are performed “dispassionately,” after much consideration; they are cold and calculating.
Premise 9: It is impossible to put a specific monetary valuation on a human life.
Premise 10: There is no way to bring a dead person back to life or to unrape a person.
Premise 11: There is no evidence that the death penalty acts as a deterrent on others from perpetrating crimes.
Premise 12: Reasonable people should not use bullshit as an authority to justify their opinions.
Premise 13: Atheists think the bible is bullshit.
Premise 14: Judaeo-Christian religious societies have used the biblical verse “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” as the accepted standard for punishment, including the death penalty.
Premise 15: Society ought not itself perpetrate acts that it finds morally wrong unless it can find some rationale for such acts.
Premise 16: There are no rational arguments for the death penalty that do not rely in some way on one or more of the following concepts: (1) it's a deterrent; (2) it's a societally acceptable form of revenge; (3) it's a societal method of self-defense; (4) it's an accepted standard of punishment and/or (5) it's the "price" a criminal must "pay" for his or her crimes.
Conclusions
Conclusion 1: It follows from Premises 1 and 2 that murder may be justifiable in self-defense, but it is still morally wrong.
Conclusion 2: It follows from Premise 1 and Definition 3 that executions are murder.
Conclusion 3: It follows from Conclusion 2 and Premises 3-4 that executions are among the “worst” form of murder.
Conclusion 4: It follows from Definition 2 and Premise 5 that executions performed by the government are not self-defense.
Conclusion 5: It follows from Definitions 4-5 and Premises 6-8 that in executions the government has resisted the primal urge for revenge.
Conclusion 6: It follows from Premises 9 and 10 that the murder or rape of a person cannot be compensated financially. There is no specific “price” that can be paid to make the victim “whole,” since he or she stays dead or raped.
Conclusion 7: It follows from Conclusion 6 that executions cannot be rationally justified by saying that the criminal must “pay” for his or her crime.
Conclusion 8: It follows from Definitions 6-7 and Premises 12-13 that a reasonable atheist should not quote the bible as an authority to justify his or her opinions.
Conclusion 9: It follows from Definition 7 and Premise 11 that if a reasonable atheist wishes to defend the death penalty, he or she must find a rationale other than deterrence.
Conclusion 10: It follows from Definition 7 and Conclusion 5 that if a reasonable atheist wishes to defend the death penalty, he or she must find a rationale different from “the primal urge for revenge.”
Conclusion 11: It follows from Definition 7 and Conclusion 4 that if a reasonable atheist wishes to defend the death penalty, he or she must find a rationale different from self-defense.
Conclusion 12: It follows from Conclusion 8 and Premise 14 that if a reasonable atheist wishes to defend the death penalty, he or she must find a rationale different from the standard set in the bible.
Conclusion 13: It follows from Definition 7 and Conclusion 7 that if a reasonable atheist wishes to defend the death penalty, he or she must find a rationale different from the wish to make a perpetrator “pay” for a crime.
Conclusion 14: It follows from Premises 1 and 15 that society should not commit murder unless it can find some way to defend such acts.
Conclusion 15: It follows from Conclusion 2 and Conclusion 14 that society should not perform executions unless it can find some way to defend such acts.
Conclusion 16: It follows from Conclusions 9-13 and Conclusion 15 that a reasonable atheist, speaking for society, cannot defend executions on the grounds that they (1) act as a deterrent on others, (2) create an acceptable outlet for revenge, (3) are a method of self-defense, (4) conform to the accepted standard for punishment, or (5) ensure that a criminal "pays" for his or her crime.

THEREFORE

It follows from Premise 16 and Conclusion 16 that a reasonable atheist cannot argue for the death penalty.
So, all you ultra-rational, death-penalty-loving atheists out there (religionists are welcome to take part as well, but you must respond to my argument using only the tools of logic) make your case for "disproving" my final conclusion. Remember, in a logical argument you may not simply challenge my premises by asserting that they’re incorrect. You must show that they’re incorrect, either by presenting facts to refute them, or by demonstrating that they lead to logical fallacies within the argument itself. Also, you may not ask questions that are irrelevant (e.g., What else should society do with its murderers and rapists?) to the argument I made.

Let the debate begin.

93 comments:

John Evo said...

Perhaps not elegant, but solidly articulated and defended. Nice job. It is clear that the death penalty is an act of vengeance. It's clear to me that we advance our cumulative societal morality by defying our instinctual urges for blood revenge.

I go even further than you are, perhaps, willing to go. Others have made the very reasonable observation that locking a human in a cage, and forcing them to interact with others, many of whom are currently unable to curb their instinct to "do harm", is itself a cruel and unusual. I'll go further - punishment (simply as "pay-pack") is immoral.

The reason for incarceration should be a. protect society b. treat the offender. If they prove themselves untreatable and if the crime heinous enough, they should not be released. But not because we seek vengeance.

The Exterminator said...

Evo:
I go even further than you are, perhaps, willing to go.
Well, further than I'm willing to go in this particular round, anyway. But that doesn't necessarily mean I disagree with you. It just means that your points fall outside the range of the logical argument I was making in this specific post.

John Evo said...

An eye for an eye is a religiously formulated punishment, given by god(s) and not limited to "a life for a life".

But, yes, you are right.

By the way, how would you respond to this -

"Don't do to others what you don't want done to you" is, essentially, a religious axiom that we find, to this day, to have moral value. Some would argue the religious proclamations on punishment have current moral value, regardless of their source.

PhillyChief said...

Isn't it amazing when you see those you know to be such ardent rationalists, who rail against theists for having fixed core beliefs that cannot be questioned and then work their "logic" outward to justify and squeeze reality to fit those core beliefs, turn around and do the same? Make no mistake, UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES would Ex dare question his core belief that the death penalty is wrong. NEVER. This wonderful artifice he's diligently manufactured is an endeavor to not test his hypothesis but rather to prove it. That's religious fundamentalism 101. Also, it's fun to watch but make no mistake, Ex is often just as guilty as employing argumentative tricks as theists. Semantic tricks, appeals to emotion, obfuscation, begging the question, you name it. If we go through his little machination, we'll find some little gems...

Right off the bat there's Definition 1: Murder. Now in any syllogism, you're free to invent terms and give them your invented definition. However, it's completely disingenuous to pick a pre-existing term that is not only universally known already but which resonates so strongly. Let's visit Merriam Webster's definition:
mur·der: 1: the crime of unlawfully killing a person especially with malice aforethought
2 a: something very difficult or dangerous (the traffic was murder) b: something outrageous or blameworthy (getting away with murder)

So from step one he recklessly gives away the whole game. Through an appeal to emotion, he intends to prejudice you through the use of that word. How can you possibly consider "murder" in a positive context? The deck is stacked in the houses favor, but that's not the only card. We can skip self defense since, as something to cite to serve his motives which already has a preloaded positive connotation, he didn't need to alter the definition. Execution. Ah, here we have some cleverness. Once again, let's return to Merriam Webster:
ex·e·cu·tion: 1: the act or process of executing : performance
2: a putting to death especially as a legal penalty
3: the process of enforcing a legal judgment (as against a debtor); also : a judicial writ directing such enforcement
4: the act or mode or result of performance
5archaic : effective or destructive action

Now at first you might think his definition is an acceptable paraphrasing, but look again, specifically at what's absent. Do you see it? The word "legal". Oh he says "performed by an official body, such as the government", but is that the same? Look at any of an assortment of events over the last 7 years from our current Administration. Were they legal? As time goes on, more and more the answer keeps coming back as "no". So once again we have an appeal to emotion, the sentiment that, in light of recent events, things carried out by the government are not necessarily legal and with most of you (I hope) generally equating legal with good, he's deliberately steering you to think of execution as not legal, as not good. This becomes important later since he quickly ties murder and execution together.

Now look at how much I've pointed out so far, and I'm not even halfway through the definitions! By the time I fully deconstruct this joke of a syllogism, it could be the end of next week and I'd be up into double digit pages. I certainly think the topic is one that's certainly worth having a rational discussion about, but I'm not into playing silly games like this. I don't care for it from theists and I certainly don't care for it from a colleague, and neither should any of you. To think we all could be so easily lead by the nose! How dumb does he think we are?

The Exterminator said...

Philly:
The definitions I've included are only those that are relevant to the argument. Bringing in extraneous definitions, like your second definition of "murder," doesn't fit within the strictures of logical discourse. I didn't use that definition because it wasn't applicable. Likewise, the same is true for the various other definitions of "execution": not applicable in this particular debate.

As for your argument about legality, it's not relevant. Of course execution is "legal," since it's "official" under the definition. But its legality has nothing to do with the argument.

Should I more narrowly define "bullshit" for you, or do you recognize that when you shovel it?


Look, you claim to be the coldly logical guy. So instead of engaging in nonsense about fine-tuning the definitions, why don't you answer the argument? No semantic tricks, no appeal to the emotions, no appeal to ethos, no ad hominems or assumptions about the personality of the arguer: Just respond, as Mr. Spock might, to the argument.

(By the way, as a sidenote: Don't necessarily assume that Merriam-Webster's is THE authoritative or the definitive dictionary. In fact, it isn't. There are dozens of other dictionaries, a number of which are thought of more highly than M-W. Three examples: The American Heritage, The Random House, and, of course, The OED.)

PhillyChief said...

The arguments are predicated on bullshit. Should I further elaborate on how?

The Exterminator said...

Philly:
Sure, elaborate. As long as you confine yourself to logic.

PhillyChief said...

That was a joke. This is a ridiculous game. When you want to be serious, perhaps in a future post, I'll participate, but I'm not playing anymore in this farce your passing off as a logic.

The Exterminator said...

Evo:
Don't do to others what you don't want done to you" is, essentially, a religious axiom that we find, to this day, to have moral value. Some would argue the religious proclamations on punishment have current moral value, regardless of their source.

I'd argue -- and have argued in various places throughout the Atheosphere -- that the negative version of "the Golden Rule" (the version you quoted) may be evolutionarily hardwired into our brains. In my opinion, religion merely formalized a notion that was already present, dressed it up in a quotable epigram, and laid claim to it. Christianity, not surprisingly, bollixed up a perfectly reasonable idea by changing a prohibition ("Don't do ...") against some types of behavior into a commandment ("Do ...") governing all types of behavior.

Still, that's outside the range of the logical construct in this post.

Philly:
It's easy to say that an argument is ridiculous. But saying that doesn't make it so.

In any case, you haven't responded to my logically proven conclusion that a reasonable atheist cannot argue for the death penalty. So I'll continue to claim I've proven that until you -- or someone else -- can demonstrate a flaw in the argument.

John Morales said...

A couple of things I noted before even reading the comment thread:

I find it odd you employ morality in your logical proof.

You haven't addressed economic considerations (such as cost of incarceration or rehabilitation), or the issue of future crimes from a criminal not executed.

I'm with PhillyChief - I think you've loaded your definitions so as to lead to your conclusion; for example, "Murder is the unlawful killing of another human being" entirely changes your argument.

yunshui said...

PhillyChief & John Morales:

Grant that the concept of "unlawful" has to be incorporated into the concept of "murder". The definition thaen has to establish the meaning of "lawful". Do we treat it with the strictness of semantics and apply the definition only to that which is against the law of the land? Or are we appealing to a more universal, human "law", one of morality? The argument over definitions can regress infinitely, which is why Exterminator began by defining his terms as they would be used in the argument. Change the word, if you like, let's say that "kerpoffle" is the wilfil killing of another human being, in which case kerpoffle is morally wrong, justifiable in self-defence etc. etc. "Murder", for the purposes of this argument, means whatever the hell Ex says it means. Attacking the definition of terms is not a valid approach to criticising a syllogistic argument.

John Morales said...

yunshui, if I'd criticised the argument per se, I'd have said so. I think it's valid to consider the definitions, since in this argument they function as premises, and the conclusion of an argument depends on the validity of the premises as much as the logic.

Furthermore, the ambiguity you raise* is related to the issue of bringing morality into the argument at all.

This argument is approached from the ethical viewpoint, but what about the societal, economic, legal or utilitarian viewpoints?

Really, definitions 1&3 and premise 1 suffice in themselves to imply the conclusion (well, for those that value morality) - paraphrased: "execution is murder which is morally wrong".
I think that's pretty loaded.

Isn't it supposed to be hard to logically prove moral statements? ;)

---
Disclaimer: my comments are predicated on the understanding that, (paraphrased), Exterminator purports to prove that it's not possible for a reasonable atheist to defend the death penalty.

* Besides, best as I can tell, the mores of a nation are reflected in its laws.

Lifeguard said...

Ay, ay, ay... I'm against the death penalty myself, but I do find it surprisingly dogmatic of Ex to definitively state that "a reasonable atheist, speaking for society, cannot defend executions."

1) It's a question of the legitimate use of force by our government. We the people allow the government to use force when we, through elections, give the green light to the government.

2) The government uses force to protect our lives and our property in ways that we consent to through our Constitution, the legislature, and our votes.

3) In that same manner, we choose when and how the government may use that force to punish individuals who break those rules.

4) Some states, and our federal government, under certain circumstances, have been given the green light by the citizenry to use lethal force to punish certain kinds of crimes the same way we have authorized the government to use monetary penalties to enforce other kinds of infractions.

5) Reasonable people will sometimes disagree on things, because we have different priorities and goals for ourselves, our families, and our communities. What makes them reasonable is the methods of thinking and choosing they utilize to attain those goals.

We can argue about the efficacy and efficiency of the death penalty, but since when has our government been efficient or efficacious? I'm with you, Ex, on the death penalty, but I don't think it's impossible to make a rational defense of it.

I think Philly's point is that your argument seems to assume that "reason" and "rationality" are forces or yardsticks out there that we all need to conform our positions to as opposed to methods of constructing arguments and using evidence. That strikes me as a little bit dangerous, because it puts us in the position of being final arbiters of what is and is not rational in all cases based on the position itself as opposed to the way you got there. Is a Catholic more rational than Philly, because the Catholic is against the death penalty based on what the Pope says?

We don't answer to reason in a normative sense-- we use reason to discuss things because it allows us to get somewhere and make sense out of things without killing each other. It's not about what position we take, it's about the basis of our opinion. I agree with you, and don't want to live in a society that executes people, but I can't say that anyone who thinks so is, by definition, irrational or unreasonable.

But, hey, like I said... reasonable people will disagree!

PhillyChief said...

No LG, my point was this was a contrived pile of crap that Ex was passing off as a logical argument and he assumed we'd be too dumb to notice.

dudleysharp said...

The logic for executions.

The Death Penalty: More Protection for Innocents
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters, contact info below

Often, the death penalty dialogue gravitates to the subject of innocents at risk of execution. Seldom is a more common problem reviewed. That is, how innocents are more at risk without the death penalty.
 
Living murderers, in prison, after release or escape or after our failures to incarcerate them, are much more likely to harm and murder, again, than are executed murderers.
 
This is a truism.
 
No knowledgeable and honest party questions that the death penalty has the most extensive due process protections in US criminal law.

Therefore, actual innocents are more likely to be sentenced to life imprisonment and more likely to die in prison serving under that sentence, that it is that an actual innocent will be executed.
 
That is. logically, conclusive.
 
16 recent studies, inclusive of their defenses,  find for death penalty deterrence.
 
A surprise? No.

Life is preferred over death. Death is feared more than life.
 
Some believe that all studies with contrary findings negate those 16 studies. They don’t. Studies which don’t find for deterrence don’t say no one is deterred, but that they couldn’t measure those deterred.
 
What prospect of a negative outcome doesn’t deter some? There isn’t one . . . although committed anti death penalty folk may say the death penalty is the only one.
 
However, the premier anti death penalty scholar accepts it as a given that the death penalty is a deterrent, but does not believe it to be a greater deterrent than a life sentence. Yet, the evidence is  compelling and un refuted  that death is feared more than life.

“This evidence greatly unsettles moral objections to the death penalty, because it suggests that a refusal to impose that penalty condemns numerous innocent people to death.” (1)
 
” . . . a serious commitment to the sanctity of human life may well compel, rather than forbid, (capital) punishment.” (1)

“Recent evidence suggests that capital punishment may have a significant deterrent effect, preventing as many as eighteen or more murders for each execution.” (1)
 
Some death penalty opponents argue against death penalty deterrence, stating that it’s a harsher penalty to be locked up without any possibility of getting out.
 
Reality paints a very different picture.
 
What percentage of capital murderers seek a plea bargain to a death sentence? Zero or close to it. They prefer long term imprisonment.
 
What percentage of convicted capital murderers argue for execution in the penalty phase of their capital trial? Zero or close to it. They prefer long term imprisonment.
 
What percentage of death row inmates waive their appeals and speed up the execution process? Nearly zero. They prefer long term imprisonment.
 
This is not, even remotely, in dispute.
 
Life is preferred over death. Death is feared more than life.
 
Furthermore, history tells us that “lifers” have many ways to get out: Pardon, commutation, escape, clerical error, change in the law, etc.

In choosing to end the death penalty, or in choosing not implement it, some have chosen to spare murderers at the cost of sacrificing more innocent lives.
 
——–
 
Furthermore, possibly we have sentenced 20-25 actually innocent people to death since 1973, or 0.3% of those so sentenced. Those have all been released upon post conviction review. The anti death penalty claims, that the numbers are significantly higher, are a fraud, easily discoverable by fact checking.

6 inmates have been released from death row because of DNA evidence.  An additional 9 were released from prison, because of DNA exclusion, who had previously been sentenced to death.

The innocents deception of death penalty opponents has been getting exposure for many years. Even the behemoth of anti death penalty newspapers — The New York Times — has recognized that deception.

“To be sure, 30 or 40 categorically innocent people have been released from death row . . . “. ‘ (2) This when death penalty opponents were claiming the release of 119 “innocents” from death row. Death penalty opponents never required actual innocence in order for cases to be added to their “exonerated” or “innocents” list. They simply invented their own definitions for exonerated and innocent and deceptively shoe horned large numbers of inmates into those definitions - something easily discovered with fact checking.

There is no proof of an innocent executed in the US, at least since 1900.

If we accept that the best predictor of future performance is past performance, we can reasonable conclude that the DNA cases will be excluded prior to trial, and that for the next 8000 death sentences, that we will experience a 99.8% accuracy rate in actual guilt convictions. This improved accuracy rate does not include the many additional safeguards that have been added to the system, over and above DNA testing.

Of all the government programs in the world, that put innocents at risk, is there one with a safer record and with greater protections than the US death penalty?
 
Unlikely.
 
———————–
Full report -  All Innocence Issues: The Death Penalty, upon request.

Full report - The Death Penalty as a Deterrent, upon request
 
(1) From the Executive Summary of
Is Capital Punishment Morally Required? The Relevance of Life-Life Tradeoffs, March 2005
Prof. Cass R. Sunstein,   Cass_Sunstein(AT)law.uchicago.edu
 Prof. Adrian Vermeule ,   avermeule(AT)law.harvard.edu
Full report           http://aei-brookings.org/admin/authorpdfs/page.php?id=1131
 
(2) “The Death of Innocents’: A Reasonable Doubt”,
New York Times Book Review, p 29, 1/23/05, Adam Liptak,
national legal correspondent for The NY Times
—————————–

Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
e-mail  sharpjfa@aol.com,  713-622-5491,
Houston, Texas
 
Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS , VOA and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O’Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.
 
A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.
 
Pro death penalty sites 

homicidesurvivors(dot)com/categories/Dudley%20Sharp%20-%20Justice%20Matters.aspx

www(dot)dpinfo.com
www(dot)cjlf.org/deathpenalty/DPinformation.htm
www(dot)clarkprosecutor.org/html/links/dplinks.htm
www(dot)coastda.com/archives.html
www(dot)lexingtonprosecutor.com/death_penalty_debate.htm
www(dot)prodeathpenalty.com
www(dot)yesdeathpenalty.com/deathpenalty_co
yesdeathpenalty.googlepages.com/home2 (Sweden)
www(dot)wesleylowe.com/cp.html

Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or in part,  is approved with proper attribution.

dudleysharp said...

The Death Penalty: Neither Hatred nor Revenge
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters, contact info below

Death penalty opponents say that the death penalty has a foundation in hatred and revenge. Such is a false claim.

A death sentence requires pre existing statutes, trial and appeals, considerations of guilt and due process, to name but a few. Revenge requires none of these and, in fact, does not even require guilt or a crime.

The criminal justice system goes out of its way to take hatred and revenge out of the process. That is why we have a system of pre existing laws and legal procedures that offer extreme protections to defendants and those convicted and which limit punishments and prosecutions to specific crimes.

It is also why those directly affected by the murder are not allowed to be fact finders in the case.

The reality is that the pre trial, trial. appellate and executive clemency/commutation processes offer much much greater time, money and human resources to capital cases than they do to any other cases, meaning that the facts tell us that defendants and convicted murderers, subject to the death penalty, receive much greater care and concern than those not facing the death penalty - the opposite of a sytem marked with vengeance.

Calling executions a product of hatred and revenge is simply a way in which some death penalty opponents attempt to establish a sense of moral superiority. It can also be a transparent insult which results in additional hurt to those victim survivors who have already suffered so much and who believe that execution is the appropriate punishment for those who murdered their loved one(s).

Far from moral superiority, those who call capital punishment an expression of hatred and revenge are often exhibiting their contempt for those who believe differently than they do.

The pro death penalty position is based upon those who find that punishment just and appropriate under specific circumstances.

Those opposed to execution cannot prove a foundation of hatred and revenge for the death penalty any more than they can for any other punishment sought within a system such as that observed within the US - unless such opponents find all punishments a product of hatred and revenge - an unreasonable, unfounded position

Far from hatred and revenge, the death penalty represents our greatest condemnation for a crime of unequaled horror and consequence. Lesser punishments may suffice under some circumstances. A death sentence for certain heinous crimes is given in those special circumstances when a jury finds such is more just than a lesser sentence.

Less justice is not what we need.

A thorough review of the criminal justice system will often beg this question: Why have we chosen to be so generous to murderers and so contemptuous of the human rights and suffering of the victims and future victims?

The punishment of death is, in no way, a balancing between harm and punishment, because the innocent murder victim did not deserve or earn their fate, whereas the murderer has earned their own, deserved punishment by the free will action of violating societies laws and an individuals life and, thereby, voluntarily subjecting themselves to that jurisdictions judgment.

copyright 2001-2008   Dudley Sharp

Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
e-mail  sharpjfa@aol.com,  713-622-5491,
Houston, Texas
 
Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS , VOA and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O'Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.
 
A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.
 
Pro death penalty sites 

homicidesurvivors(dot)com/categories/Dudley%20Sharp%20-%20Justice%20Matters.aspx

www(dot)dpinfo.com
www(dot)cjlf.org/deathpenalty/DPinformation.htm
www(dot)clarkprosecutor.org/html/links/dplinks.htm
www(dot)coastda.com/archives.html
www(dot)lexingtonprosecutor.com/death_penalty_debate.htm
www(dot)prodeathpenalty.com
www(dot)yesdeathpenalty.com/deathpenalty_co
yesdeathpenalty.googlepages.com/home2 (Sweden)
www(dot)wesleylowe.com/cp.html

Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or in part,  is approved with proper attribution.

yunshui said...

Mr Sharpe, for all his many qualifications, does not appear to have read the original post. Neither of those arguments ("innocents might be killed by mistake"/"the death penalty is an emotional reaction") appear in any form in Ex's argument. If you're going to copy-and-paste your rants, at least make them relevent!

John Morales:

Point taken. The original syllogism does indeed only approach the issue from one angle.

dudleysharp said...

yunshui:

I did read the original post.

Not only did it have several errors within it, it also did not fully review the logocal reasons for the death penalty.

I reviewed a few of them.

To summarize, the death penalty in the UShelps t save innocent lives in at least three ways.

In addition, justice, not vengeance or revenge is the reason to support any sanction.

That may be too subjetive for a totally logical discussion.

There are several logical reasons to establish laws which sanction for those who violate the social contract - social standards, protection of society, deterrence, to name a few.

However, I think the justice issue is primary for many or most, but is, again, very subjective.

Rhology said...

Oy.
You're an atheist. Premises 1, 2, 3, 9, 12, 13, and 15 rely on moral claims.
You forgot to offer any justification for those claims in your Definitions (the logical place), or indeed anywhere in your post. To say nothing of the moral pontificating in the Conclusions.


As PC said on Premise 1: "The deck is stacked in the houses (sic) favor, but that's not the only card."

On a side note, Premise 7 leads me to ask: But why SHOULD a human do so?

I guess if you had been elected or instated somehow as the Pope of Morality, you could make such claims and expect them to stick, expect everyone else to bow to your authority.

The Exterminator said...

John M.:
You haven't addressed economic considerations (such as cost of incarceration or rehabilitation), or the issue of future crimes from a criminal not executed.
That's right, I haven't.

"Murder is the unlawful killing of another human being" entirely changes your argument.
No, it's irrelevant to my argument. I'm not talking in legalistic terms.

Really, definitions 1&3 and premise 1 suffice in themselves to imply the conclusion (well, for those that value morality) - paraphrased: "execution is murder which is morally wrong". I think that's pretty loaded.
Yup, it's loaded. But given that governments justify everything they do as being "legal" (see the current administration's policies, for instance, or Hitler's many anti-Semitic laws), I chose not to bring the issue of legal v. illegal into the discussion. I think executions are murder, just the same way that I think waterboarding is torture. It doesn't matter what the government says to the contrary.

yunshui:
You may be the only commenter who understands the "rules" of logical argument. I'm glad to have you with me in the not-OK corral.

But I'm not as easily convinced by John M. that the original syllogism approaches the issue from one angle only. Just because it doesn't look at all the possible angles, doesn't mean it's limited to one.

But again, that argument is irrelevant.

Lifey:
Your argument, while I agree with it, is based on legality. So, for reasons stated above, I won't address it.

Speaking of legality, though: have you and your sweetie finally made it "legal" yet?

Philly:
... this was a contrived pile of crap ...
Well, you've yet to show that.

dudley:
Please do not use my comment space as an opportunity to type a long series of Web site addresses, or to give your resume. Nobody here cares. Ethos is a very poor debate strategy in these parts. And under no circumstances are you to run your own copyright notice on anything that appears here. I own this page. By leaving an unsolicited comment, you're implicitly granting me all rights to use it worldwide and in perpetuity.

Now, to the content of your comments: They're long. But they're not responsive to the argument I made in the post.

I will say, however, that I lack the utilitarian spirit. I don't care if "the greater good" is served by killing some people; those murders are morally unjustified. (You might look at our Bill of Rights to see some great examples of the Individual being protected against the arbitrary rule of the Many.)

As far as I'm concerned, no murder is justified except in the case of self-defense. So, aside from any other arguments I might make, as long as there's one -- that's ONE -- innocent person who has been executed, the death penalty is flawed.

I agree with you that "justice" is subjective. I'd say, subjectively, that it's unjust whenever a community decides to kill one of its members.

But, again, none of the above is responsive to the specific argument here.

Rhology:
Well, I knew you'd show up at some point to misinterpret the post.

You're an atheist. Premises 1, 2, 3, 9, 12, 13, and 15 rely on moral claims.
Congratulations on recognizing that I'm an atheist.

I didn't ask anyone to analyze the types of claims the premises were; labels are unnecessary. I merely asked readers to demonstrate, if they could, that the conclusion is invalid.

Rhology said...

And calling into serious question the validity of 7 of your 16 premises doesn't count as demonstrating the conclusion is invalid?

Must've missed sthg here...

The Exterminator said...

Rhology:
And calling into serious question the validity of 7 of your 16 premises doesn't count as demonstrating the conclusion is invalid?
Well, simply announcing that you don't accept the premises does not really call them into serious question.

To do that, you have to show that they're flawed somehow.

By the way, your question about Premise 7 is completely irrelevant.

Rhology said...

Maybe he should rewrite the post then. Here's how it could go:

Premise 1: I assume, without evidence, that murder is morally wrong.
Premise 2: I assume, without evidence, that murder is justifiable when done in self-defense.
Premise 3: I assume, without evidence, that murder is “worst” when done with pre-meditation and malice aforethought.


Etc.

It would definitely improve the flow and illustrate my point. I don't know about bolstering the argument, though.

yunshui said...

But if you accept the premises, you have to accept the conclusion, right? As I see it, Ex's actual argument is sound - disagreement with the premises does not invalidate the syllogism.

Rhology said...

Yeah, that's certainly a completely different argument. I don't know, the premises are bad, I stop paying attention to what comes after unless the premises are straightened out first. It's all merely academic if you don't do that.

The Exterminator said...

Rhology:
Obviously, you don't understand how a logical argument is made. You may examine each premise and, if possible, show it to be flawed logically. But the operative words are "show" and "logically."

Your assertions, no matter how often or how loudly you make them, don't show anything -- except for your doggedness.

So, can you show, logically, that, within the framework of my argument:
(1) Murder is not morally wrong.
(2) Murder is not justifiable when done in self-defense.
(3) Murder is not "worst" when done with pre-meditation and malice aforethought.

The odd thing is that I think you probably agree with each of those premises. Are you arguing here just because an atheist stated them rather than a Christian?

PhillyChief said...

Seriously Ex, stop. You're really embarrassing yourself now with these games. NONE of your premises are worth considering since your definitions are deviously contrived. I showed that, yet here you are forcing that term "murder" again yet have the audacity to lecture someone on logical argumentation.

Whatever credibility you might have had goes further out the window the more you continue with these shenanigans. Just drop this and move on.

Rhology said...

Whoa, whoa, I just granted that in my last comment. I'm just saying that your argument has no connection to the real world b/c 7 of the premises are fatally flawed.
That doesn't mean the syllogism doesn't hold (as I understand syllogisms); it just means that, given the premises, the conclusion follows. I made no comment one way or the other on that question. I just pointed out that this is nothing more than an academic exercise, with no possible bearing on the real world, until you un-screw-up those premises.

John Evo said...

Philly, (if you are still around) I'd like you to calmly consider the accusation you make have made (here and elsewhere) that the position of "always" being against the death penalty is equatable to religious absolutism and (even if you conclude it is) whether it's a suitable point to offer in debate.

Consider that being always against the death penalty is a simple political statement that we should not have laws allowing the state to execute people. Being in favor of such laws could also be "absolute" in that sense.

It seems to me that the only possible reason that you could say that there is equivalence between my position against the death penalty and theistic positions is to try to be insulting. It would be disingenuous of you to claim you didn't realize that telling an atheist that acting like a theist is not insulting. And I know your intellectual abilities well enough to know that you don't think making such a statement has an iota of value in resolving the issue.

yunshui said...

This will be my last word on the matter (mainly because now I have beer and so will become progressively more incoherent as the evening wears on), but I'd like to point out that nowhere on this thread has anyone either: a) logically invalidated one of the premises (sneering and disagreement on principle don't count, I'm afraid) or b) shown up a fallacy in the argument itself. Until such time as either of these criteria is fulfilled, Ex's argument, so far as I am concerned, still stands.

The Exterminator said...

Philly:
I'm not embarrassed. What made you think I was?

You still haven't shown how any of my premises are flawed, nor have you shown how my conclusion is invalid.

Labeling an argument as "games" and "shenanigans" is merely semantic thuggery. It's not logic.

The point is: You're the one who claimed that you could show logically why the death penalty should be defended. I beat you to the punch and showed, logically, why it can't be defended. Of course, I might be wrong; my argument may be flawed. But, since you're the one who put this on the footing of logic, you'll have to demonstrate logically where and how I'm incorrect.

Rhology:
Once again: you haven't shown that any of my premises are flawed. You just keep announcing over and over and over again that they are.

Evo:
Yup.

yunshui:
Thanks. Enjoy your beer.

Rhology said...

In the recent Problem of Evil post that you abandoned, your inability to answer these questions is well-documented for anyone to see.

But by all means, if you think that you can get your argument on track so that it means sthg in the real world, by all means let us know what evidence you have for these premises. You're on a short leash, however - you've had your chances. Don't beg a question this time. Give us the answer and don't fallacise.

PhillyChief said...

Yunshui: How can you champion premises when you can't credibly get to that stage? The definitions and the words chosen are bullshit.

I'm unsubscribing now

The Exterminator said...

Rhology:
Any previous posts are irrelevant to this one. In a logical argument, it isn't incumbent upon me to show that my premises are true. You have to demonstrate that they're flawed.

By the way, "fallacise" isn't a word. It's possible that "phallicize" is a word, but, of course, it would have a different meaning. I will agree, however, not to do that.

Philly:
The definitions and the words chosen are bullshit.
Again, that's not a logical argument. "Bullshit" is another example of semantic thuggery -- and it's an unsupported assertion.

I'm unsubscribing now
Not a logical argument.

Rhology said...

"fallacise" isn't a word

A little light on humor, are we?

Any previous posts are irrelevant to this one.

Yes, Almighty Arbiter of Logic.

In a logical argument, it isn't incumbent upon me to show that my premises are true. You have to demonstrate that they're flawed.

On atheism, you have no basis besides personal stipulation to make such moral statements as these. To deny the premises, I do what you do - simply stipulate the opposite.

The Exterminator said...

Rhology:
To deny the premises, I do what you do - simply stipulate the opposite.
Well, you can stipulate any nonsense you wish. But not if you're attempting to show that my argument is invalid. To do that, you have to demonstrate that either (1) the premises are flawed, or that (2) the conclusion doesn't follow from the premises.

Rhology said...

No, that's just the point! You're right! Anyone can stipulate any nonsense one wishes, and on atheism there is no overriding moral authority to decide between the nonsenses. My stipulated nonsense might be that murdering YOU is highly preferable, b/c I don't like your blog's color scheme. Your stipulated nonsense is Premise 1-3. And there is no non-question-begging reason to prefer one over the other.

John Evo said...

and on atheism there is no overriding moral authority to decide between the nonsenses.

Ah... you like that overriding authority, eh, Rhology?

bullet said...

I stopped reading when it started breaking down.

I apologize for making anyone repeat themselves:

Is it ok to redefine words to fit your argument? If you do, then should your argument, regardless of its validity, be used to defend a position? (i.e. I am opposed to the death penalty because no reasonable atheist can be for it.)

Not to be too flip about it, but if I named my penis, "God," or defined human penises as tiny gods, then I could make a valid argument about the existence of gods, but it wouldn't be acceptable to reasonable people.

Lifeguard said...

Ex:
The WTB and I make it "legal" two weeks from tomorrow althought we've been making it illegally for some time now.

I have to agree with Philly that some of your premises are a little dubious. I'll just take the one about inmates not being a threat. That is not true. Besides the obvious case on inmates who escape, inmate on inmate violence (which includes murder and rape) constitutes a threat to my mind.

While there is no evidence that the death penalty serves as a deterrence, there is plenty of research that indicates why that might be-- namely that negative consequences of one's behavior are only effective deterrents if the consequences are immediate and certain, which, in our legal system, they are not.

I agree with you that my argument above was legalistic as opposed to dealing with the merits of the issue, but that's what we do as a society of individuals who decided a long time ago that there are no infallible geniuses among us. And maybe that's my overall objection to your blanket assertion that an atheist cannot rationally support the death penalty or that that position is irrational for an atheist to hold.

"An eye for an eye" has religious underpinnings, but there is a certain fundamental fairness to it at the same time. While I disagree with it as a matter of morals, I can't claim it's irrational. Unjust? Yes. But illogical or irrational? I don't think so.

So where is the logical flaw in stating that if an individual has taken another person's life, they have subjected themself to the death penalty. Where is the error in that thinking as a matter of logic? The fact that you have laid out a rational argument against the death penalty doesn't mean that supporting it is irrational.

You're basically saying that rational people cannot disagree on the death penalty, and I think that's a pretty wide assertion to make.

Bullet:
I'd name mine God, but the little lady'd never believe it.

John Morales said...

OK, by Exterminator's rules - though note how the "definitions" are functionally additional "premises".
What isn't explicitly defined is the universe of discourse.

So, Exterminator:

---
[Premise 1: Murder is morally wrong.
Premise 2: Murder is justifiable when done in self-defense.]

Conclusion 1: It follows from Premises 1 and 2 that murder may be justifiable in self-defense, but it is still morally wrong.

Q: How did "is justifiable" become "may be justifiable"? And why bring in justification in the first place, only to dismiss it definitionally?

---

[Premise 1: Murder is morally wrong.
Definition 3: An execution is the willful killing of another human being, performed by an official body, such as the government.]

Conclusion 2: It follows from Premise 1 and Definition 3 that executions are murder.

Thing is, conclusion 2 is not really a conclusion in that it's not an inference or deduction, but a restating of the premises. It's not even a tautology, logically speaking.

Using the same technique one can make many spurious arguments, e.g.:
Premise 1: Kidnapping is morally wrong.
Definition 1: Kidnapping is the willful imprisonment of another human being.
Definition 3: Incarceration is the willful imprisonment of another human being, performed by an official body, such as the government.
Conclusion 2: It follows from Premise 1 and Definition 3 that incarcerations are kidnappings (and morally wrong).

---
... skipping on to ...
---

Premise 16: There are no rational arguments for the death penalty that do not rely in some way on one or more of the following concepts: (1) .. (5)....

Exterminator, since you agree that you haven't addressed economic considerations, is it not the case that premise 16 is not exhaustive in its enumeration of concepts?
Surely economic considerations are not irrational?
---

Well, I'm running on, so more generally, look at your conclusion and compare it to reality.

You are essentially saying that you've logically proven that any atheist who is not against the death penalty is irrational or immoral.
Were such a person to exist, it would be a counter-example and thus a falsification, no?

The Exterminator said...

Rhology:
No, that isn't the point. In a well-constructed logical argument, one defines his or her terms clearly, states flawless premises, and uses those premises to reach a valid conclusion. You can't just stipulate any nonsense; you have to back it up logically.

For example, in your many arguments for the existence of god -- at least the ones I've seen -- you've never defined your terms clearly, stated flawless premises, and used them to arrive at a valid conclusion.

But that's not relevant here. I do invite you, in the future, as a response to an appropriate post, to present your logical argument, similar to the one I've constructed above, proving the existence and overriding moral authority of a god. But you're not going to do that in this comment thread because -- for the last time -- it's irrelevant.

For now, you're still saying over and over again that my premises are flawed, but you haven't provided any logical demonstration to back up that assertion.

Evo:
To be fair, Rhology has not made an argument here for the existence of an overriding moral authority. And, as you know, it would be irrelevant if he did.

But I think we may see Rhology try to make such an argument at No More Hornets at some future time. I can hardly wait.

bullet:
Well, I'd like to see you make a logical argument that your penis is a god.

I don't think I "redefined" any words. I limited the definitions narrowly only to those that were appropriate to the argument. But I didn't just pull any of those definitions out of thin air.

But in any case, in a logical argument, definitions and premises are givens. The challenge for someone trying to explode that argument is to find an inconsistency within the narrow logical universe that has been created.

And I'll give you a concrete example of how this works. One of the terms that needs a clear definition when a theist makes an argument is "god." As you know, it's virtually impossible to get a believer to specifically define that term and then to generate an argument predicated only on that definition. Whether or not we "agreed" with the definition would be irrelevant to the argument, provided that the argument did not magically expand, contract, or otherwise change that definition during its course.

So, yeah, if you were constructing a logical argument, you'd be free to define human penises as "tiny gods" -- but then you'd have to clearly indicate what you meant by that.

Lifey:
In a logical exercise -- which is what the post is -- a premise rises or falls on whether or not it's flawed. You haven't really challenged my premises that way.

For example, take your statement that inmates are a threat. First of all, I used the word "imminent," which your objection doesn't address. Second, you added extra premises, like the potential threats of escape or inmate violence, that I didn't include. As I wrote to bullet, in order to disprove my argument logically, you have to accept my definitions and my premises.

Now, clearly, if you wanted to have a discussion that didn't necessarily rely solely on logic -- that allowed us to use the tools of emotion, appeal to authority, gut feelings, subjective attitudes, personal history -- we'd have a different kind of conversation about the death penalty.

But that's not what this is. This is a purely logical argument, in the strict sense of that word. Given my definitions and premises, I've attempted to "prove" that a reasonable atheist cannot argue for the death penalty. To show that the conclusion is logically invalid, you must use logical arguments only.

Rhology said...

Overriding authority

Yeah, call me crazy, but "I say so" is nowhere near a satisfactory answer (nor a logical one, I might add), esp on a question of this importance.
You know, you claim to be a big stickler for evidence and backing up your assertions all the time; we have yet to see you do so on this question. Why is it? Is this a case of "Case is weak here; talk louder and be more abusive to the guy everyone dislikes"?

states flawless premises

Fine, you've identified your own problem.
And whether or not an overriding moral authority is relevant is not my point. I've been trying to help you by pointing out the solution to your dilemma (well, that or abandoning the argument altogether or clearly labelling it as a mere academic exercise in syllogism training), but if you don't want my help, it's your own viewpoint that looks bad.

Rhology said...

Let's put it this way - how would you react if someone brought in good, solid evidence from a reputable source that fit all your normal requirements for good research that brought Premise 11 into serious doubt?

But you haven't done that!!!!!!

Let the reader judge whether naked, blind apppeals to your own authority/moral sense is a rationally compelling way to argue logical cases.

John Evo said...

You know, you claim to be a big stickler for evidence and backing up your assertions all the time; we have yet to see you do so on this question.

My two assertions on "this question" are:

1. We make progress as unitary society when we go against the grain of evolution and resist the urge for blood vengeance.

2. That Philly does himself, and his position, a disservice when he mocks fellow rational thinkers.

Which of these would you like me to apply "evidence" to? What nature would the evidence take?

Or, do you simply lump me in with those who have voiced discomfort with the death penalty and are requesting evidence for my discomfort? I can tell you - it's really true that I'm uncomfortable with capital punishment. Don't you trust my claim of discomfort?

The Exterminator said...

John M.
OK, at last someone who responds to the actual logical construct.

You're right about my Conclusion 1. It should read: It follows from Premises 1 and 2 that murder is justifiable in self-defense, but it is still morally wrong.

You did catch me in an error. My Conclusion 2 should have said: It follows from Premise 1 and Definitions 1 and 3 that executions are murder and, therefore, morally wrong.

I'm not convinced that's a tautology. What I'm basically saying is
A = X
B = X
Therefore A = B.
A = Y
Therefore, B = Y.
That's not tautological.

Your counter-example about kidnappings may make a good argument in and of itself. I, myself, would not make such an argument because my premises and definitions would be different. If you were to make that argument, though, I'd have to look at it carefully. Right now, I don't see how you've falsified my argument by using it. If you mean this to be a reductio ad absurdum, it doesn't work.

As far as Premise 16 goes, it does say ... in some way .... I'd like to hear an economic argument for the death penalty that doesn't in some way rely on one of the concepts I stated.

As to your final question, please cut the word "immoral," because I didn't use it in that context. But you may be right that if such a reasonable atheist were to exist, given the constraints of my Conclusions 9-13, and if it could be logically proven that he or she existed (a hardy handshake would do it), my argument might well be invalidated.

Thanks for commenting on the specific argument using logic only. If you keep up the good work, I may be forced to admit that my conclusion is invalid. You will then win an official No More Hornets Logic Prize.

But you haven't gotten me to that point yet.

The Exterminator said...

Rhology:
But you haven't done that!!!!!!
Was that supposed to be me speaking? I take offense. I'm not Christian, and so I'd never use that many exclamation points in a single sentence. Shit, I wouldn't use that many exclamation points in a month.

Meanwhile: You don't get it, do you? Have you ever engaged in a logical argument?

Go look at John Morales's last comment to see what constitutes a good logical response.

Evo:
Your points 1 and 2 are not constructed logically. So they're irrelevant to my actual post.

However, for the record, I agree completely with number 1. I'd agree with number 2 if you added the word "irrationally" before "mocks."

dudleysharp said...

Is legal incarceration the same as illegal kidnapping?

Or can we morally differentiate between the crime of illegal kidnapping and legal incarceration for committing that crime?

Does the social contract allow for sanctioning criminal activity?

Why?

Several reasons. Establishing boundaries for actions and sanctioning those who cross those boundaries and establishing some deterrence because of those sanctions.

16 recent studies, inclusive of their defenses, find for death penalty deterrence - an enhanced deterrent over lesser sanctions.

Murderers cam harm and murder, again, while in prion or after escape.

Executed murderers cannot.

The Exterminator said...

dudley:
Your comment is irrelevant. You also don't get it, do you?

By the way, although it's irrelevant, you sound like a fascist. Are you, by any chance, a sub-sub-official in the Bush administration?

John Morales said...

[off-topic to post but not to thread and a one-off]

Wow this has livened up!

Exterminator, I've got chores to do but will respond.

Dudley and others, it's pretty clear Exterminator wants us to stick by the rules he stated in his post. Henceforth herein I will respect that.

Though I think it's fair enough to state opinions about the basis for the premises or how compelling a morality-based argument is (my main objection), having done so further elaborations on that are clearly off-topic, this one included.

PS in your irrelevant last comment, in another forum I'd bring up the concept of vigilantism.

John Evo said...

Dudley, by your definition of "deterrence", executing all criminals would likely serve as a deterrent to murder as well. After all, most killers have criminal records prior to the act of murder.

In fact, many acts of murder have occurred not just after release or escape, but while still in prison. You could take that to even more absurd levels and, if Ex has you pegged, perhaps you would.

But let's forget Ex's logic for a moment (though Ex will despise me for it); living in a society that shuns the notion of getting blood vengeance for a murder will, de facto, make Dudley a better human being. And I'd love for you to be better Dudley.

The Exterminator said...

John M.:
Wow this has livened up!
If you think this is something, wait until the dancing girls arrive.

By the way, I myself have some "chores" to do: the work I was supposed to get done while I was blithely responding to comments. Evo, who knows me pretty well, can tell you that this is definitely not a one-time occurrence.

Evo:
... though Ex will despise me for it ...
Impossible. My standard for despising is pretty high (or low, depending on your angle). In either case, you couldn't conceivably attain it. You'd have to get to the level of a James Dobson or a George Bush to even be considered for that honor.

On the other hand, I do despise French-cut canned stringbeans, so I am occasionally arbitrary.

Back on-topic: Both of you give yourself some demerits for making irrelevant comments. (I've started my very own collection, too.)

John Evo said...

EX said: On the other hand, I do despise French-cut canned stringbeans, so I am occasionally arbitrary.

That's completely rational and I'm sure you'd do an outstanding job of defending it logically. It's those nut-jobs who feel that way about Brussels Sprouts that I can't fathom.

John Morales said...

I don't want to spend too much time on this, so I'll dispense with Conclusion 1 and resume considerations of Conclusion 2.

Anyway, you say it corresponds with
A = X
B = X
Therefore A = B.
A = Y
Therefore, B = Y.


[where A = Murder, B = Execution, X = Willful killing, Y = Morally wrong]

Your symbolic expression is not felicitous, by the way - it misuses logical equality.

Expanding (unless your A=B /= A ≡ B, in which case what does it mean?):
(A=X) Predicated(Murder is willfull killing, willfull killing is murder)
(B=X) Predicated(Execution is willfull killing, willfull killing is execution)
=>(A=B) Implied(Murder is execution, execution is murder)
(A=Y) Predicated(Murder is morally wrong, morally wrong is murder)
=>(B=Y) Implied(Execution is morally wrong, morally wrong is execution)
Reducing: (A=B=X=Y).

I know you don't accept my reduction as valid, since you've said you don't consider it tautological as expressed, but I stand by my opinion.

Consider, without changing your logic (as italicised above), substituting Premise 1 (A) to something analogous: A = Rape is morally wrong.
Then, with your symbology, your lemma "Therefore A = B" sounds asinine to me.

---

[meta]
I note it might be easier to change to some form of predicate logic (e.g. something like "for all x, if x willfully kills then x is a murderer") for clarity. Or at least agree on some symbology.

---

Re: If you mean this to be a reductio ad absurdum, it doesn't work.

Quite right. I did so mean, and apparently it doesn't.
Let me try again (using the modified conclusion 2 of course)

Definition 1: extortion is the willful demand for money on pain of punishment from another human being.
Definition 3: Taxation is the willful demand for money on pain of punishment from another
human being, performed by an official body, such as the government.
Premise 1: extortion is morally wrong.

Conclusion 2: It follows from Premise 1 and Definitions 1 and 3 that taxation is extortion and, therefore, morally wrong.

---

Re premises:

I contend that your definition of murder is too narrow to be applicable to a convincing argument.

I cite
* Wikipedia:
"Murder is the unlawful killing of a human person with malice aforethought, as defined in Common Law countries. Murder is generally distinguished from other forms of homicide by the elements of malice aforethought and the lack of lawful justification."

* Merriam-Webster Online:
"the crime of unlawfully killing a person especially with malice aforethought"

* and others.

John Morales said...

Oops, forgot.

Re: Premise 16.

it does say ... in some way ....

I grant you that.
But that's over-generalising, I think.

Literally interpreting "in some way", you could, for example, say P16(3) relies on P16(1) and eliminate P16(3) without losing any more than you have by, say, excluding the cost of recidivism or the lifetime cost of maintenance* of an otherwise executed person.

Can't have it both ways - either P16 is exhaustive at some level, or it's not. I stand by my previously articulated case here, too, but invite you to clarify (perhaps by defining what's excluded?) this point.

* food, security, medical, legal costs, lost opportunity, etc. Over decades, perhaps.

John Evo said...

Obviously (in America and other countries still condoning capital punishment) the dictionary definition of murder could be used to "prove" that executions are not murder.

But the two terms that would so rescue executions are:

1. Malice
2. Unlawful

As to the first, malice is only applicable because we say it's not malicious to execute. Others disagree. There is no consensus of morality.

On the second, laws change. In most democracies, execution is illegal. So there is no universal moral agreement there either.

A lack of moral agreement does not mean that both positions are equally moral or immoral. We can look at any number of morality issues from the past in which America finally came into agreement with a moral position held earlier, in another society. Today, it seems like a perfectly obvious moral stance to say that slavery is evil or that the subjugation of women is evil. 200 years ago, both were as far from obvious to Americans as the evil of capital punishment is today.

Other than those two morally questionable words, the remainder of the definition of murder is not subject to international boundaries and moral ambiguity. Take away the morally debatable language from the Wikipedia entry and you have:

Murder is the killing of a human person with aforethought, as defined in Common Law countries.

Note that the reason killing in self-defense would not be murder is a fair assumption of lack of forethought.

John Morales said...

John, right.

I did say I'd agree to the rules.

Exterminator, I withdraw my definitional quibble.

John Morales said...

Um, you're supporting something not claimed by Exterminator - the quote is not "killing in self-defense would not be murder" - the quote is "Murder is justifiable when done in self-defense".

The implication here clearly is that any form of willful killing is murder, regardless of justification such as self-defense.

From there it's matter of showing murder is wrong, which is not nearly as hard as the original claim.

John Evo said...

That was my own toss-in regarding self-defense "murder", if you will. I'm not attributing that one to Ex.

Both of you are much better with logic than I am. All I can do is offer small, weak insights that hopefully clarify marginally.

(Ex, that last part was for you. No comment needed). :)

The Exterminator said...

JM:
"Livened up" is right. I've put the dancing girls on hold for the time being. Unfortunately, they wouldn't tell me who's holding them.

I completely agree about the infelicitous symbology (what a gentlemanly way to say "crappy"), but it's been a long time since I've constructed an argument like this -- a very long time -- so I went with some quick shorthand. Not felicitous, maybe, but you did interpret it as I hoped you would.

So:
I don't agree that the section from A=X to B=Y is tautological. A tautology, in its simplest form, is A or ~A. It's a statement that must be true. I think my example is a step-by-step process. In algebra -- and I admit that we're not dealing with mathematics here, but I can't think of a clearer way to say this right now -- to get from A=X to B=Y would clearly be a step-by-step process and not a tautology.

Your argument about rape doesn't actually follow, if I've understood what you meant. If A = Rape, B = Execution, X = willful killing, and Y = morally wrong, then we'd get (again, using my symbology):
A = Y (from your new Premise 1)
B = X (from my Definition 3).
But there's no way to derive B = Y from that unless we add other definitions and/or premises.

Your new attempt at reductio ad absurdum is fantastic. Since I actually believe that taxation is a form of extortion, I may use it in a future logical argument. So it's not as absurdum as you thinkum. Seriously, you still haven't shown it to be flawed.

Thanks to Evo's small, weak insight (he's so irrationally self-deprecating sometimes), you dropped your definitional quibble, so I won't respond to it.

I'm not convinced about your objection to Premise 16. Let's take that in a few steps.

P16(3) does not necessarily have to rely on P16(1). Deterrence is about the prevention of future crimes. Self-defense is about the prevention of present harm. They're different.

Now, as far as the concepts (1)-(5), they may well be exhaustive, if we start by slightly editing one of my definitions and adding another. (There are alternative ways to arrive at the same result, such as defining the undefined "society." But I'm going for something dramatic and obvious). Again, I remind anyone else who's reading this that definitions in a logical argument don't have to correspond to what the dictionary says. They're included to ensure that everyone discussing the argument is using the same terms for the same things:
Definition 3: An execution is the willful killing of another human being, performed by the government of a civilized state.
Definition 3(a): A civilized state is one in which persons may not be deprived of their lives merely to further the alleged goals of that state.

(Obviously, we'd then have to tweak the Premises and Conclusions slightly to follow through those ideas. The final conclusion might wind up reading something like:
A reasonable atheist cannot argue that a civilized state may perform executions. But the basic structure and most of the details would remain the same.)

If you'll give me those two definitions, here's why I think my Premise 16 would stand up to any of the objections you mentioned:

A rationale limited to economic issues (costs of food, prison maintenance, medical services, etc., including "lost opportunities"), without using any other rationale (i.e., one or more of my concepts (1)-(5), or a concept that relies on one or more of them), would, if carried to its logical conclusion, result in a state that isn't civilized. That objection would fail, since the argument (in its amended form) would presuppose a civilized state.

I think a strict utilitarian rationale or a rationale based solely on security would lead to the same failed result.

I may be wrong, though. If you can demonstrate that there's a logical flaw in Premise 16 (by making a valid argument using a rationale clearly different from one of those I've enumerated), you might win the No More Hornets Logic Prize.

Don't ask me what that is, though, because I haven't figured it out yet.

John Morales said...

First, I acquiesce regarding the would-be rape analogy. I rushed and failed to include, as you alluded to, the appropriate analogous Definition. I concede on that, therefore, and leave it behind.

Next, regarding symbology, I'm confident I'll at least come close to following you if you make an effort to be unambiguous, and no doubt you'll provide me feedback. It should not be an issue if we're both genuine.

Regarding the status of tautology for your Conclusion 2 - you're technically right.
I was alluding to the equations, but seriously, I refer you to this, and would find a clarification helpful.

May I say I feel somewhat constrained in having no avail to inference objections, given your rules, so let me know if I stray.

Your new attempt at reductio ad absurdum is [...] not as absurdum as you thinkum.

Fair enough. I guess I'm not going to sway you by appealing to actions some consider appropriate from the State but inappropriate for individuals. I'll leave it there.

Last for now, re: Premise 16.
Now, as far as the concepts (1)-(5), they may well be exhaustive, if we start by slightly editing one of my definitions and adding another.
[...]
Definition 3: An execution is the willful killing of another human being, performed by the government of a civilized state.
Definition 3(a): A civilized state is one in which persons may not be deprived of their lives merely to further the alleged goals of that state.
[...]
If you'll give me those two definitions, ...


Sure.

... here's why I think my Premise 16 would stand up to any of the objections you mentioned:[...] the argument (in its amended form) would presuppose a civilized state.

Well, sure. I referred to that above - you need to make necessary assumptions explicit.

BTW: Do I have to keep track of emendations, are you doing this, or is the thread its own record?

I hope it's OK if I wait till tomorrow to continue - but to move on I provisionally concede Conclusion 2 on the amended terms.

The Exterminator said...

JM:
You must have miskeyed your first link because it takes me back to the beginning of my post.

I never heard the term "inference objection," but, after having looked it up, I don't see how it applies in the context here. I do agree, though, that all my premises should be stated explicitly, and I've tried to do that. If you think of any hidden co-premises that are not stated, I'll be happy to add them. Any new premises can, of course, be examined for flaws within the logical construct.

For the time being, let's allow the thread to stand as a record. If things get too complicated, if we start adding extra premises or making more than a few emendations, I'll go into the original post and use strikeouts and a red font for changes and additions.

At this point, I've corrected:
* Conclusion 1 to conform to the exact language of Premise 2.
* Conclusion 2, by adding a reference to Definition 1 and actually drawing the fucking conclusion that I meant to draw. Note: As of now, we still disagree on whether or not Conclusion 2 is a tautology.

I don't think you've found a logical flaw in Premise 16 as it stands, at least not yet. But I do think I should have made clear that the entire argument presupposes a civilized state (or at least a civilized atheist). I'm not happy with the sloppiness of my fix, though. I'll think about a different approach that still doesn't change the flow of the argument. Tomorrow.

I must get some real work done this weekend, though. So let's keep up the back-and-forth, but don't expect instant responses. I'm going to try to force myself not to reply immediately, even though I'd much rather engage in this debate than do the crap I've contracted to do. Of course, restraint sounds easy to me now, at 4:15 am.

The Exterminator said...

JM:
OK, here's my suggested quickie fix to address the "civilized state" issue.

Add:
Definition 8: A civilized state is one in which persons may not be deprived of their lives merely to further the alleged goals of the state.

Add:
In Premise 16, the words in a civilized state following ... for the death penalty .....

Add:
In Therefore, the words in a civilized state after ... for the death penalty .....

Still an inelegant argument, but no more inelegant than before. I should have been linguistically consistent with a few synonymous terms (e.g., "execution(s)"/"the death penalty" and "defend"/"argue for") but I don't think it's necessary now to make any changes -- unless you can show that the lack of uniformity affects the logic.

heather said...

Ex
Great post.

Your premise 16 sums up the arguments for the death penalty and I've not seen anyone here present a strong case against your points. (Most of the executioners' arguments are irrelevant to what you said.)

The only weakness in your argument is that you have to rely on "morality" as your basis, given that there are no moral absolutes.

I am trying to distinguish my own feeling of absolute moral certainty that executions are wrong from the logical arguments and to do a devil's advocate thing, but I can't.

The Exterminator said...

heather:
I'm going to digress, briefly, from this specific post to address your problem about "morality."

I've been struggling with moral philosophy. On one hand, I definitely do think that, given our current knowledge of the brain, moral systems have to be called "subjective" -- at least for the time being.

On the other hand, I think there are certain near-universal taboos that may be evolutionarily hard-wired. The taboo against murder would be at the top of the list. If that taboo turns out to be a result of the natural biological development of the human species, I think it could be called "objective."

Anyway, because -- for now -- the immorality of murder must be accepted as a subjective judgment, I included it in my premises. I can't prove it one way or another, so I've arbitrarily made it a given.

Of course, doing that opens up the possibility that someone may find my premise to be flawed logically -- in this particular argument.

The Exterminator said...

JM and Everyone:
OK, I'm awarding myself the first Logic Prize on this post, because I found the flaw in Conclusion 2. This is a big "Duh," that has me smacking myself in the head.

It's not a tautology. It's a fallacy called affirming the consequent. Given the definitions that I started with and using symbolic logic:
A = Murder
B = Execution
X = Willful Killing
Y = Morally Wrong

A -> X (from Definition 1)
B -> X (from Definition 3)
B -> X -> A (WRONG: affirming the consequent)

Just to keep this thing moving, I'm going to fix that flaw by using a stipulative definition. So, for purposes of this argument:
Definition 1: The willful killing of another human being is murder.

As with most stipulative definitions, there seems to be an implied premise, which I could fix by using a word less loaded than "murder," like "zyzyx." My premises would then read:
Premise 1: Zyzyx is morally wrong.
etc.

But the word, itself, doesn't actually affect the flow of the argument. So let's keep it "murder" for the time being, and I'll grant that it's loaded. I'll also expect some commenters to point out that Noah Webster may want to execute me for maiming his definition.

Anyway, with my new stipulative definition, we have the following:
X -> A (from the new Definition 1)
B -> X (from Definition 3)
Therefore, B -> A.
A -> Y. (from Premise 1)
Therefore, B -> Y. (Which is Conclusion 2 in its rewritten form.)

No tautology, no affirmation of the consequent.

John Morales said...

[PS (Pre-scriptum ;)
I've just finished this, it's turned out to be long and meaty.
Enough for one day, but I will get back to this if Exterminator remains game.]

Exterminator - before moving to the meat of this comment, I'd like to clarify this business of the definitions and the premises, and of the notation.

As I see it, to proceed logically and somewhat formally, your proof should consist of a list of propositions (sentences), the truth-value of each which is true if the argument is valid.

Those propositions which are stated are your premises, those derived from previous propositions are conclusions. Premises are for this purpose assumed true, while conclusions are contingent. We can refer to intermediate conclusions as lemmas, where they function as derived premises.

Now, I still contend your set of definitions are part of the premises. I justify this based on the distinction between the language of the proof and the metalanguage the proof is expressed in (English, herein).
If you're using terms differently from the way you use them in your metalanguage, they become part of your language for the purposes of the argument.

I refer to your reply to PhillyChief:
The definitions I've included are only those that are relevant to the argument. Bringing in extraneous definitions, like your second definition of "murder," doesn't fit within the strictures of logical discourse. I didn't use that definition because it wasn't applicable. Likewise, the same is true for the various other definitions of "execution": not applicable in this particular debate.

Now, clearly, none of these qualifications apply to this meta-discussion of your proof; if you'd made it clear you were making propositions of the form "D1:Murder is the willful killing of another human being." thus clearly indicating that's what it means for the purposes of the argument, you wouldn't've needed to reply as you did above. Of course, you really should've been more formal - Are you saying
"D1:Murder is the willful killing of another human being."
allowing that it may also be other things; or
"D1:Only the willful killing of another human being is Murder."
which more properly would be expressed
"D1:Killing another human being is Murder if and only if the killing is willful" to show the two variables;
or something slightly different?

So, I could nitpick forever - not good. I really think you need to further formalise your proof somewhat before proceeding, starting by admitting those definitions are actually premises for the purposes of the proof.

OK, re notation:
I suggest ~ negation, & conjunction, | disjunction, -> conditional and = biconditional. Also, since you seem to be using an informal sentential logic, single letter (with suffixes) sentences.

---

So, looking at your new lemma (C2)** a little more formally:
You propose
Definition 1: The willful killing of another human being is murder.
Definition 3: An execution is the willful killing of another human being, performed by the government of a civilized state.
Premise 1: Murder is morally wrong.
A = Murder
B = Execution
X = Willful Killing
Y = Morally Wrong

X -> A (from the new Definition 1)
B -> X (from Definition 3)
Therefore, B -> A.
A -> Y. (from Premise 1)
Therefore, B -> Y. (Which is Conclusion 2 in its rewritten form.)


Bringing it in line with the above, the seven variables become distinct and the same argument (best as I can interpret it) reads:
1. A
2. B
3. X
4. Y
5. D1 = (X = A)
6. D3 = B
7. P1 = Y
8. X -> A [5]
9. B -> X [6]
10. B -> A [8,9]
11. A -> Y [7]
12. B -> Y [10,11]

So, written thus it is amenable to determination, if necessary by a method as crude as a truth-table.

Exterminator, I need feedback on this before I can meaningfully proceed - but here is a hint.
You might consider whether the auxiliary variables D1, D3 and P1 necessary, given they are defined in terms of other variables.

---

Oh right - the link. Sorry, post was a rush job and I obviously missed vetting before posting*. Anyway, it was to logical equality, re functional and equational forms (not my terminology!) and more fully explained in this post anyway.

---

* Maybe blogger puts the source URL as default on empty links in comboxes? Dunno.

** See how you use Definitions as Premises?

John Morales said...

Correction:

7. P1 = (A = Y)

Not that it changes anything relevant, alas.

The Exterminator said...

JM:
This comment thread has now gone far beyond my 1966 Freshman Course in Carrollian Symbolic Logic. I doubt that my construct will stand up to strict mathematical analysis, but I'm game to give it a whirl. We'll have to proceed slowly, though.

I think what you meant to say is that I've used what should really be Premises as Definitions (not the other way around). So let's see what happens if we start at the beginning again. To preserve the previous numbering system (although we may get to the "Yikes!" stage if we keep trying to do that), I've numbered the new premises less than 1.

Premise 0.1: The willful killing of another human being is murder.
(Note: Not biconditional. For the time being, let's allow that other things may also be murder. Also, we'll leave the terms undefined at this point.)
Premise 0.2: Execution is the willful killing of another human being.
(Note: Again, not biconditional.)
Premise 1: Murder is morally wrong.
(Note: Obviously not biconditional, under any system.)

A = Murder
B = Execution
X = willful killing of another human being (Note: spelled out to be clear that we're talking about humans here, and that the killer is different from the killee.)
Y = morally wrong

1. A
2. B
3. X
4. Y
5. P0.1 = (X -> A)
6. P0.2 = (B -> X)
7. B -> A [5,6]
8. P1 = (A -> Y)
9. B -> Y [7,8]

Does that work? If not, please explain. Simply. Don't link me to any technical pages, because my eyes cloud over when I get beyond my FCICSL (pronounced, if we must, as "fuck-ick-sel").

I'm kissing this sub-thread goodnight until tomorrow. But I'm looking forward to learning a lot, so please do continue.

PhillyChief said...

Have a nice day

John Morales said...

Exterminator, it's Sunday arvo here so after today it's back to work and not so much spare time; I'm not too shagged to reply now so... but after this really and truly no more today.
Note too I'm responding according to thematic flow, rather than the chronology of your comments.

First, something I didn't get to respond to (it's taking long enough as it is) Re: Definition 8: A civilized state is one in which persons may not be deprived of their lives merely to further the alleged goals of the state.

Let's wait to revisit this, in view of the current inchoate state of our comm protocols for logical analysis; however, I probably would ask for clarification, such as "Q:persons or citizens?".

=========

Don't link me to any technical pages
Darn! I had a couple of primers...
Ok, you can always Google for yourself.

But at least check out a great (IMO) post on logic in general.

<Disclaimer> I myself only had two semesters in formal logic back in '80,81 myself, but it was one of my favorite subjects, and I was doing some programming until the late 90s; logic is handy there, algorithms tend to be unforgiving and users are as well.
But I'm in no way a professional or even an expert - just another guy.
I do screw up or make typos, and in symbolic logic that's pretty important. So check up what I say for yourself, remember it's only my opinion.</Disclaimer>

=========

Does that work? If not, please explain. Simply.

Not quite. Sorry, I was unclear.

What I did is set out how I interpreted what you said, within the proposed scheme.
The syntax of the proposed common logic system is simple, and the definitions are separate body.
Line 5 would simply be X -> A. (note we can omit parentheses unless necessary to avoid ambiguity, and the line number is the referent. Also, I suspect you chose A and B, X and Y as indicatories of signifiers of different categories, and that's redundant and possibly obfuscatory.

Also, you and I still aren't quite on the same terminological conceptual space; you write:
Premise 0.1: The willful killing of another human being is murder.
(Note: Not biconditional. For the time being, let's allow that other things may also be murder. Also, we'll leave the terms undefined at this point.)

In English, ambiguous as it is, the phrasing "X is Y" can be a biconditional or an instanciated conditional or something else. Your qualification is only necessary because you have combined variables - see below. I think I understand it, and have avoided the biconditional to attempt to reflect your contention.

I have no doubt you will present a substantial one of your own, but for this comment just consider what I next present as an example only, and I'll break it down for illustration, perhaps down to a too-basic level.

Right - I would propose something more like this (we can ignore the bits in parentheses for now, though):

(categories and memberships undefined)
E = Execution (of a human)
K = Killing (of a human)
W = Willfull (of an agent)
M = Murder (of a human)
R = Morally wrong (of an entity)
S = done by the State (as an agent)

Then
Premise 0.1: The willful killing of another human being is murder.
becomes
If it is willful and it is a killing, then it is murder.
becomes
1. (W & K) -> M
Premise 0.2: Execution is the willful killing of another human being.
becomes
If it is willful and it is a killing, then it is execution.
becomes
2. (W & K) -> E

---
OK, pause here.

Please note I've just written two sentences in our proposed calculus, based on an associated set of definitions. Note too I put the categories in parentheses, I did that because I propose we henceforth ignore such complications and leave this as a simple logic system; and honestly, I don't think modal or quantified logic is required here.

Anyway, as you see, the first two statements are your premises, and therefore granted true.

Note [1] does not say either W or K are true, nor even that M is true. What it says is, if W is true and K is true, then M is true. It also does not say that M could not be true unless both W and K are true. And it definitely does not say (W & K) = M.

Resuming, then
---

(X -> A) is now problematic, as I've redefined it. Let's go back to English from the definitions and interpret it, then translate it back to symbolysm:
The willful killing of another human is murder.
Under the new definitions, this (ahem) becomes
3. (W & K) -> M
(B -> X) is similar; skipping the (by now I hope obvious) steps
4. (W & E) -> M
B -> A [5,6] becomes
5. E -> M [4]
(A -> Y) becomes
6. M -> R
and B -> Y [7,8] becomes
7. E -> R [5,6]
---
So, excuse the length of the post, but it makes it much more clear, here is your lemma (best as I can intuit your intent), formalised*:

{
E = Execution
K = Killing
W = Willfull
M = Murder
R = Morally wrong
S = done by the State

1. (W & K) -> M
2. (W & K) -> E
3. (W & K) -> M
4. (W & E) -> M
5. E -> M [4]
6. M -> R
7. E -> R [5,6]
}

* the good news is that it's already a lot more concise, even before doing anything else to simplify it.

The Exterminator said...

JM
Well, now that Philly has picked up this argument in his own blog, the whole point of my post -- that one cannot defend (or attack) the death penalty using logic alone -- has been transferred elsewhere.

However, I'm enjoying your analysis, and expanding my understanding of formal logic. So, if you're up for it, please let's continue. We can do this as leisurely as you'd like, maybe a response every few days.

(And, by the way, do feel free to link me to some formal logic primers.)

I find it problematic to reduce everything to atoms. But, assuming we do so, your reduction of my Premises 0.1 and 0.2 don't reflect my carefully chosen English (which was perhaps a trick, eh?).

Premise 0.1: The willful killing of another human being is murder.
1. (W & K) = Q
(Arbitrary term Q to show the conjunction.)
2. Q -> M
Premise 0.2: Execution is the willful killing of another human being by the state.
(Not the other way round, because the willful killing of another human being by the state may be something other than execution.)
3. E -> Q & S
Now, here's where I'm not certain about how to proceed. I think that since E -> Q & S then also
(E -> Q) & (E -> S). If that's so:
4. E -> M & S [2, 3]
5. M -> R
6. E -> R & S [4, 5]
(6. in English would be Execution is a moral wrong done by the State.)

In any case, I don't agree that you've formalized my argument because you've reversed the elements in 2. I can't follow the argument because 3. is the same as 1. (I think that may be one of your typos.)

Respond whenever. No hurry. But at least you've got something frivolous to do instead of following Rhology around.

The Exterminator said...

Your reduction ... don't reflect my carefully chosen English?

Apparently not that carefully. Sheesh.

The Barefoot Bum said...

The work is indeed not at all elegant, and is unnecessarily prolix. It is neither sound nor valid. (Note too that an argument draws conclusions. It does not "rely" on them.)

I'm not at all an advocate for the death penalty, but I'm more offended by the poor quality of your argument.

There are a lot of problems in the work, especially the excessive reliance on logic. The logic should be easy: The hard part of any work is defending your assumptions and premises.

Definition 1: Murder is the willful killing of another human being.

This is a prejudicial definition. The usual word fitting this definition is homicide.

Definition 7: A reasonable person is an individual who does not rely on conclusions that can’t be drawn logically.

Definition 5: A primal urge is an unthinking, instinctual action, most likely the result of evolutionary development.

This is just stupid.

Definition 7: A reasonable person is an individual who does not rely on conclusions that can’t be drawn logically.

This is stupid too.

Premise 1: Murder is morally wrong.
Premise 2: Murder is justifiable when done in self-defense.


These two premises are obviously in contradiction.

You're pretty much fucked from the get-go here. Bad logic, bad assumptions, and bad rhetoric. I'm not arguing that you're wrong. I'm arguing that your "argument" sucks.

The Exterminator said...

Barefoot:
Hey, sorry you're offended. I trust you'll get over it.

So:

You're right about drawing conclusions, not relying on them. On the other hand, I just learned a new word (for me) from JM: lemma. According to him, even though a lemma is an intermediate conclusion (drawn), it then functions as a derived premise. Can't that lemma be relied on to draw further conclusions?

Definition 1: Yes, I admit "murder" is prejudicial. Guilty as charged. However, if murder is a subset of homicide, and if the definition fits "homicide" -- as you claim -- then why doesn't it also fit "murder"? Isn't anything that's true for a whole set true for each of its members?

Definition 5: Why is it stupid? Please explain or demonstrate its stupidity.

Definition 7: Why is it stupid? Again, please explain or demonstrate.

Premise 1 and Premise 2 are not in contradiction. An action may be both justifiable and morally wrong. Killing another person, even in self-defense, is, in the context of this argument, morally wrong. Self-defense is justifiable, but that doesn't necessarily mean "morally justifiable." It may merely mean "reasonable." You'll have to ask me to define "justifiable" because right now there's no obvious contradiction.

So, I'm not convinced that I'm "fucked from the get-go." You haven't actually demonstrated that my argument sucks.

I think JM will eventually be able to do that, maybe sooner (I hope) rather than later, as I enmesh myself in more and more formal difficulties. But I'm responding to you, not him.

I'm not claiming that my argument doesn't suck. But you haven't shown so far that it does.

John Morales said...

Exterminator,

the whole point of my post -- that one cannot defend (or attack) the death penalty using logic alone -- has been transferred elsewhere.

That's OK, I'm happy to continue this exercise until you're comfortable you can express your argument symbolically and thus show its validity or otherwise; having this ability would allow you to concentrate on the premises rather than the mechanics of the logic.

I find it problematic to reduce everything to atoms.

Sorry, but that's the essence of this type of logic.
There's nothing wrong with defining, say, M = Willful killing rather than the (apparently more convoluted) {[W = Willful, K = Killing, M = Murder];(W & K) -> M}, if you never need to distinguish between willful and involuntary killing. If murder is conditional on killing and on willfulness, it needs to be broken up into atoms for the system to operate on the possibilities. Obviously, you can "build macros" by using auxiliary variables such as your Q, but needing to use such for simple proofs is, um, like using GOTOs in a functional language. That's where the line numbers come in.

But, assuming we do so, your reduction of my Premises 0.1 and 0.2 [doesn't] reflect my carefully chosen English (which was perhaps a trick, eh?).

Not really a trick; like a compiler, I mindlessly applied the rules to convert English to symbology for each proposition - I even showed my thinking as I went - without caring whether the whole or indeed individual sentences made any sense. That's why it's up to you to understand how I did it, so you can do it yourself rather than have me interpret your intent.
I hope I was clear in pointing out it was merely an example of how to go about it, but I did want you to notice the duplications and the unused definition (S).

Re: Primer.
On a quick look-through, this seems quite close to what I'm proposing (which is admittedly a hack) and easy to follow - obviously, it's more rigorous but you should find it not much harder than what I've been saying (easier, probably, since it's done by pedagogical experts and the ideas are really not that hard). I think you're just about there with me anyway and we can start talking logic using our own calculus.

Or you can maybe find another better suited to your predilection; look for predicate/sentential logic and ignore anything too elementary (which is doubletalk for incomprehensible). Cheers.

---

re: [(W & K) = Q];[E -> Q & S] = [(E -> Q) & (E -> S)] ?

note (E -> Q) & S and E -> (Q & S) are different.
The former says "it's by the State, and if it's an execution then it is a killing and it is willful", the latter "if it's an execution then it is a killing and it is willful and it is by the State".

When in doubt, turn to brute force and use a truth table (oh boy, am I awakening some memories of FCICSL salad days? :)

W K (W&K) Q
--------------------------------
T T T T
T F F F
F T F F
F F F F

However, I'm not going to do all the work... :)
I'll leave the rest as an exercise for the reader, in the grand old tradition.

E Q S (E->Q) (E->S) (E->Q)&(E->S)
------------------------------------------------------
T T T T T T
T T F T F F
T F T F T F
T F F F ... ...
F T T T
F T F T
F F T ...
F F F

Look at the "Basic and Derived Argument Forms" section of this Wikipedia entry.

BTW, I think the closest standard form to what you want there is the Hypothetical Syllogism (├ is the inference operator, think of it as therefore): ((p → q) & (q → r)) ├ (p → r).

...

And I think that's enough for a Monday morning on my first cuppa.
I'll check the posts tonight after work.

John Morales said...

Argh! Blogger ate up the whitespace on the tables...

I hope the truth tables still make some sort of sense, though the columns don't line up as shown.

The Exterminator said...

JM:
Oh, I hate truth tables. I hated them in 1966 and I still hate them today. I always felt I was far more likely to accidentally fuck up the table-construction process than I was to make a mistake working through specific examples in my head.

I can see, though, how a truth table would be useful as a quick reference to show various results in a long string.

Anyway, I'm not sure I understood the answer to my question:
Given E -> (Q & S),
does that mean
(E -> Q) and (E -> S)?
In other words, does our calculus include the same distributive law as arithmetic?

John Morales said...

Exterminator,

[meta]
I guess my point is made too - from what I’ve seen over time (b get the P.A. feed) your informal logic is pretty good; unfortunately neither natural language nor nor human brains are not well suited to dealing with complex arguments involving multiple premises and connectives - it's about as easy as solving equations in your head. You've already shown that by the mere act of attempting to define a proof symbolically can reveal weaknesses hidden by natural language.

Clearly, there are two issues here.
One, the proof, as currently set forth, is not really amenable to the simple propositional system we've discussed here (sorry!). That's suited to yes/no propositions and true/false premises, it probably needs a more advanced logic to do it justice, and even then I'm not sure how you moral quantifiers or qualifiers work...
Two, even if the proof were indisputably valid and could be shown to be so, it would only be compelling to those who agreed very closely to your premises; and, as has been seen, the premises are contentious.
[/meta]

... I hate truth tables.

Not much fun, are they? Still, it's like the Chinese room experiment - you can know nothing about inference rules and still determine whether any well-formed argument is valid, purely mechanically.

To answer
Given E -> (Q & S), does that mean (E -> Q) and (E -> S)?
In other words, does our calculus include the same distributive law as arithmetic?


You would ask... the short answer is don't think so.
There are distributive laws, but the variables are boolean, not numeric.
P & (Q | R) = (P & Q) | (P & R)
P | (Q & R) = (P | Q) & (P | R)

In this case, yes, [E -> (Q & S)] = [(E -> Q) & (E -> S)]
See for yourself (try a fixed font):
E Q S E ->(Q & S)(E ->Q)&(E ->S)
T T T T T T T T T T T T T T T
T T F T F T F F T T T F T F F
T F T T F F F T T F F F T T T
T F F T F F F F T F F F T F F
F T T F T T T T F T T T F T T
F T F F T T F F F T T T F T F
F F T F T F F T F T F T F T T
F F F F T F F F F T F T F T F

"An execution, therefore it's a willful killing by the State"
"An execution, therefore a willful killing, and an execution, therefore by the State"

The sentences share the same truth-values, so they are logically equivalent.

The Exterminator said...

JM:

From the truth tables, I think it may turn out that:
X --> (Y & Z)
is always equivalent to
(X --> Y) & (X --> Z)
But there was a reason that I wrote "and" instead of using an ampersand.

However, using those mental truth tables I love, I realize -- duh:
Given:
1. X --> (Y & Z)
That will not necessarily have the same truth value as either
2. X --> Y
or
3. X --> Z
standing alone.

If the truth value of 1. is T, necessarily both 2. and 3. will be true. However, if the truth value of 1. is F, it's still possible that 2. or 3. can be T. The only thing we know for sure is that they are not both T.

Now that I've looked at this kind of Boolean system, I do note some major differences between the way it works and the way standard symbolic logic works:
(1) In standard symbolic logic, the truth values of premises are irrelevant. It's concerned, at its most simple level, only with deriving valid conclusions.
(2) In the Boolean system, the truth values of premises are a factor from the beginning. It's concerned with deriving sound conclusions.

So, I was able to mock up any nonsense to reach a valid conclusion in the logical system I started with. (I knew I was doing that, but I never expressed it in those words.)

Then you came along with your fucking real-world "Is it true, or is it false?" and you blew my cover.

What's remarkable to me -- because I'd never had this insight before -- is that the more formalized the logical system becomes, the more it actually reflects reality.

Anyway, I have a funny idea for a future "logical" post that (1) has absolutely nothing to do with the death penalty, (2) will not be a put-on, and (3) will be mercifully concise. Without first posting it, I'd like to run it by you to see if (1) it works, and (2) it actually is funny in a logical-geek kind of way.

Since you don't have a blog yourself, if you're up for consulting on my potential future post (for which I'd be happy to give you joint-authorship credit), send me an email so we can go back and forth privately two or three times maximum.

I promise I won't ever characterize you as a stalker, or give your email address to Rhology.

Whatever you decide about that post, thanks for teaching me something.

John Morales said...

Exterminator, I'm rather impressed by how much thought you're putting into this. I haven't long, just finished brekky and off to work in a few, but a couple of things.

Re: logical equivalence.
I don't think I expressed it very well; what I was trying to convey is that, if X -> (Y & Z) is true, then (X -> Y) is true, and so is (X -> Z), and conversely, if X -> (Y & Z) is false, then so are (X -> Y) and (X -> Z) -- so the sentences share truth-values.
In English, if something implies two other things, then that something implies each of the other things. That's not controversial, I hope.

(Um, it's pretty clear I wasn't cut out to be a teacher :)

Re you proposed future exercise, it sounds good. The email address I use for posting here is valid and I check it semi-regularly, so feel free to write me.

I'll check in tonight.

The Exterminator said...

JM:
Exterminator, I'm rather impressed by how much thought you're putting into this.
Well, I never advertise the fact that I'm fascinated by mathematical puzzles. It's a good thing I am, though, because I have to use intermediate algebra, probability theory, and Venn diagrams whenever my wife asks me to help balance her checkbook.

I don't think you're correct about this:
if X -> (Y & Z) is false, then so are (X -> Y) and (X -> Z) -- so the sentences share truth-values

if X --> (Y & Z) is False, it's still possible that either
X --> Y
or
X --> Z
could be True.
But not both.
I think that's correct.

The email address I use for posting here is valid ...
Yeah, but I can't derive it. Although you have to register at Blogger with an email address, others have no access to it, unless you check the permission on your profile. It doesn't look like you did that. So for now, Google/Blogger can track you down, but I can't.

John Morales said...

Exterminator, sorry - I rushed the last couple of posts and confused things.

But there was a reason that I wrote "and" instead of using an ampersand.

Right, and I missed that; I was thinking in terms of analogy to arithmetic distributive/associative laws, and also in the context of proofs rather than the specific truth-values of individual sentences, and with inappropriate terminology.
At least you aren't losing the plot.

More on this below.

---

if X --> (Y & Z) is False, it's still possible that either
X --> Y
or
X --> Z
could be True.
But not both.


Excellent.

Here is the very last truth-table for this thread. I've taken the liberty of rewriting it to foil blogger's chomping, but I hope it's clear enough.
Lines 1..3 cover all states of the variables.
Lines 4..6 show the truth-values of their respective expressions.

+12345678
1TTTTFFFF X
2TTFFTTFF Y
3TFTFTFTF Z
---------
4TFFFTTTT X -> (Y & Z)
5TTFFTTTT X -> Y
6TFTFTTTT X -> Z

So, you are quite correct.
Clearly, rows 5 and 6 differ from row 4, and when 4 is false, either 5 or 6 is true but not both.
The stupid thing is I knew all this when I was posting, and then said it was logical equivalence by shared truth-values. What I wanted to express is that, in a proof, it's a valid replacement.

---

The relevant part for the purposes of a proof is that, in order to simplify expressions or isolate variables, there are
These are called rules of replacement, because they can be used
to replace part of a sentence with a logically equivalent expression.


Not my words ;)

This intro is much better and more on line with the way I've put it introduction. It's not very big and includes other stuff, but look at Chapters 2 and especially 6. It says what I've been trying to say, but properly...

---

Heh, I didn't know that about Blogger - I thought blog owners could see the address the poster put in, and never check my profile. No problem - the domain is Hotmail and the UID is yorickoid.

John Morales said...

<cough>>

I just checked the thread and, um, I quoted you but didn't amend.

That should be
"Clearly, rows 5 and 6 differ from row 4, and when 4 is false, either 5 or 6 is true or both are false."

We both fail - maybe we should leave logic and especially rigor to logicians ;)

The Exterminator said...

JM:
Clearly, rows 5 and 6 differ from row 4, and when 4 is false, either 5 or 6 is true or both are false.
Still not right, and not what I said.
You've taught me enough that I know to be precise. It should be:

Clearly, rows 5 and 6 differ from row 4, and when 4 is false, either but not both 5 or 6 is true or both are false.

I don't know how else to phrase a disjunction that cannot also be a conjunction.

Or maybe in this calculus, a disjunction is always understood not to also be a conjunction?

John Morales said...

Or maybe in this calculus, a disjunction is always understood not to also be a conjunction?

LOL

Yah, I think you're less unclear than I.
I should've by now explicitly said disjunction is normally assumed inclusive. No real reason, either way works, but it's customary.

I hesitate before pointing out that, had your argument contained any disjunctions, this would've likely already come have up - or I'd not've forgotten to address this.

I said "... either 5 or 6 is true or both are false"*,
you said "... either but not both 5 or 6 is true or both are false"**,

Just to try again, with more than a moment's consideration...
"Clearly, rows 5 and 6 differ from row 4, and when 4 is false, 5 and 6 are never both true simultaneously".

The Exterminator said...

JM:
I hesitate before pointing out that, had your argument contained any disjunctions, this would've likely already come have up - or I'd not've forgotten to address this.

So are you saying that my original argument was not disjointed?

John Morales said...

Touché!

Indeed.
Therefore, logically, it not being disjoint means it must have been joint; and furthermore, with no negations either.

One could kindly say it was cogent and bore no contradiction.

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