Ask An Atheist: How do you approach a valid but unsound argument?

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Q. I’m stuck at this point in philosophy: an argument can be valid, but still be unsound. It seems easy enough for the professionals to check for validity, but I don’t know of any a priori methods for checking soundness. It seems all methods for checking soundness must be done a posteriori, which faces the usual problems of induction. Many valid arguments for god rely on this difficulty to check against the soundness of the argument. Do you have any comment on approaching these sorts of situations?

SPO_House-ad_Ask-an-atheist_0425133A. The correctness of a logical argument depends on the soundness of the initial assumptions and the correctness of any necessary evidence being adduced for it. The problem with philosophical arguments in the god department is that they involve historical subjects for which no direct evidence is available and/or involve intrinsically undecidable propositions. Therefore, it is quite impossible to ever settle on what constitutes sufficient evidence for the proposition apart from making yet another fiat assumption, so the morass that many feel they have waded into in this area comes with the turf. (This relates directly to the “NOMA Revisited” topic I plan to present as my next posting, so you might want to wait and read that to see how that illuminates, or not, this area.)  It would be swell if god(s) did more personal appearances or did the sort of overt contraventions of natural processes that their Bronze Age press packets seem so full of, but that seems not to be on the agenda much.

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About Jim Downard

Jim Downard is a Spokane native (with a sojourn in Southern California back in the early 1960s) who was raised in a secular family, so says had no personal faith to lose.

He's always been a history and science buff (getting a bachelor's in the former area at what was then Eastern Washington University in the early 1970s).

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