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Introduction to Philosophical Inquiry

A Flawed Pragmatic Argument for Religion

Reading some stuff recently, I stumbled upon a really interesting argument for the justification of religion, it went:

1. The Belief in God gives Practical Benefits

2. All Beliefs giving Practical Benefits are Pragmatically Justifiable

3. The Belief in God is Pragmatically Justifiable

Now, this is an example where the argument, is neither, sound, nor valid. Breaking down the syllogism, The Belief in God is (A) or The Subject Term, Practical Benefits is (B) or The Middle Term, and Pragmatically Justifiable is (C) or The Predicate Term.

But, breaking down the syllogism, we can find that the syllogism is potentially valid, because believing in God could possibly give Practical Benefits, and All Beliefs that are practical are justifiable.

However, where this syllogism falls short, is that it commits 3 major fallacies, Relevance, Ambiguity, and Presumption.

First, let’s break apart the first premise, “The Belief in God gives Practical Benefits”, this has 2 main problems first, it presumes that believing in God gives Practical Benefits, because as far as I know, it isn’t backed up by scientific or experimental data, and fact. Secondly, it falls short, because it is ambiguous, Practical Benefits is a highly ambiguous term, it could mean a multitudinous amount of things. It could be practically beneficial in the realm of giving power to the Church, it could be practically beneficial for health and etc.

But, where the entire argument collapses like a house of cards is because it is simply irrelevant. Note, how statement 1 states that Belief in God is Practical, but going around full circle, Statement 3 states that Belief in God is Pragmatic. Looking, at the definition, and connotation of Pragmatic, we can conclude that Pragmatic, and Practical are the same thing. So, therefore, Statement 3 = Statement 1, and (C) = (A), and it makes a huge show out of actually getting nowhere at all.

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Discussion

2 thoughts on “A Flawed Pragmatic Argument for Religion

  1. You say, “it presumes that believing in God gives Practical Benefits, because as far as I know, it isn’t backed up by scientific or experimental data, and fact.”

    But you can’t say a premise is false simply because there is not evidence to prove that it is true. If you are criticizing an argument, you must *show* it’s false. In general: the failure to prove ‘P’ does not entail ‘not P’.

    Posted by Stephen Downes | October 4, 2012, 11:19 am
    • But, if you read through the entire paragraph, I am not saying that it is false. I am saying that where it falls short, is that it is supplanting the rock upon which it should build its argument, with one of uncertainty. I’m not saying that it is by any means false, I’m simply saying that it is uncertain, which is what the fallacy of presumption is, “The reasoning that results from the implicit supposition of a premise of whose truth is uncertain OR improbable.” I’m simply saying that the truth is uncertain, which is irrefutable.

      Posted by riczhang | October 4, 2012, 2:59 pm

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