How to articulate philosophical arguments effectively

I am less interested about relitigating the intellectual debate in the past thread, as it has gone on for hundreds of posts without clear progress. I think that at the bottom of it is a disconnect in argumentative method and common background, not necessarily the intellectual positions per se. @Jim, you said the following:

While it’s certainly good to know the rules of inference, the feeling I’m getting here is that you haven’t read enough professional philosophical articles (not just YouTube videos) to see how these rules of inference are used in actual arguments.

Even though I’m a scientist, I’ve read numerous articles in philosophy journals. (A few years ago, I was the main organizer for a philosophy of science reading group in my physics department.) As a Christian who is sympathetic to Thomism, I’d be one of the first people to remind others about the limits of science and the difference between metaphysics and physics. Yet, even with all of this background, I’ve never encountered anyone who argues in the same confusing way that you do.

Some people get into philosophy because they are interested in deep questions and have their own pet theory on how things “work”. However, once we read a little bit deeply, we often realize that there have been others before us who have already anticipated our position and plumbed its argumentative depths to greater precision and sophistication than our own untrained minds. This is a common phenomena not just in philosophy, but many other fundamental fields. That’s why it’s important to be patient and to first become familiar with the existing literature before articulating our one’s own position. Otherwise, a little knowledge can be dangerous - and ineffective.


I would qualify that by saying there has been progress overall, at least as far as I’m concerned, but it has certainly reached a point where there is an obvious impasse.

I would say that’s a fair assessment for the most part of what might possibly be going on.

I’m not sure I would agree with that, but I will keep that in mind.

I’m not sure what you mean by this. I’m using a non-deductive probability type argument. I agree that my claim is unconventional, but the method I’m using is fairly standard as far as I know.

I realize my presentation format is informal. Maybe if I formalize the argument that would help. I’ll try and formalize the particular instance we’ve been focusing on lately of the general argument I’m making about concepts as best I can to see if that helps to get rid of any confusion.

  1. Oscillation rates of atomic clocks change at different altitudes in correlation to the strength of the earth’s gravitational and electromagnetic fields
  2. Clocks are physical instruments that require physical causes for changes in their rates to occur, and gravitational and electromagnetic fields are the only directly known physical correlation to the change in oscillation rates of atomic clocks at different altitudes
  3. Gravitational and/or electromagnetic fields are the most plausible of possible causes for the changes that occur at different altitudes in the oscillation rates of atomic clocks

Edit: This might be better

  1. The only known physical correlations to oscillation rates of atomic clocks changing at different altitudes are the earth’s gravitational and electromagnetic fields
  2. If the earth’s gravitational and electromagnetic fields are the only known physical correlations to changes in the oscillation rates, then they would most likely be the cause of those changes
  3. The earth’s gravitational and/or electromagnetic field(s) are the most likely cause of those changes

I am aware of this.

I’m not sure I follow your line of reasoning here. My aim as a layperson is to get a better understanding of scientific claims and see if they make sense to me. And one of the best ways to do that, I feel, is by engaging with scientists and asking them questions.

I’m not worried that I might say something wrong and have to be corrected. I’m more than happy to be corrected which I believe I have demonstrated in the past. As far as I’m concerned that’s just a part of learning.

And I’m not sure how articulating a position before having spent several years steeped in study could be dangerous - or ineffective. On the contrary, I believe the interactions I’ve had here have been extremely helpful, at least to me. I have gained a lot of knowledge from these discussions and am grateful for all of the very helpful input from everyone here.

I understand your concern about my lack of qualifications. However, I don’t think that focusing on how qualified I am should be the central issue, but rather it should be if the premises and conclusions of the arguments I’m making are reasonable. If not, I’m happy to concede that’s the case. But so far I haven’t found that to be so from what has been presented in the various discussion.