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Subject: RE: orion-list: Friendly Clarification
When I taught logic, I collected examples of logical fallacies from the
nets for my students. I still do, only nowadays I send the "best" of the
lot off to the "Oompah Awards" committee.
Poor reason, at best deeply limited, is incapable of producing anything
that was not put into it in the first place (GIGO). It is a pity that
even reason must be abused with logical fallacies. We should note that
reason can never be "objective"; it is the height of arrogance and self-
deceit to pretend otherwise. At best reason can be disinterested. There are
tools to help enforce disinterest: tools such as the repeatable requirements
of the hard sciences, the procedures of formal and symbolic logic, and the
restrictions used in structural and systemic analyses. These tools, however,
gather dust through lack of use.
With the exception of deliberate lies, the primary causes of logical
fallacies are incoherence, hazy thinking, failure to read what is actually
written, and most of all, untested preconceptions and assumptions.
We all have untested assumptions; they are quite unavoidable. The only way
to avoid the abuse of the limited capabilities of our reason is to be aware
that we have such untested assumptions and, if we find we are using them as
premises, be willing to test them when something throws doubt on them. Some
people, though, are not willing to test their assumptions; hence, logical
fallacies swarm here on the nets and roost in the secondary literature.
All this said, let's take a close look at this last post.
First, Daniel, thank you for making my point.
>"Before the sun is up they . . . offer . . . certain prayers . . . they are
>then dismissed . . . to the various crafts . . . until the fifth hour, when
>they again assemble . . . (purification, followed by breakfast)" (War
Precisely. Josephus's agricultural Essenes were not at Qumran.
>In any case, using Josephus for a description of Qumran Essenes is a red
Logical Fallacy: Ignoratio elenchii. You can't have the chicken without the
egg. The entire case for Essenes at Qumran rests on similarities between
Josephus' description of the Essenes and a very interesting work of fiction:
1Qs. No Josephus, no Essenes at Qumran.
Typically, where there is one logical fallacy, we can expect others in the
>Whoever lived at Qumran, and whatever the Essenes were, Josephus is clearly
>not attempting to describe the life of Essenes at Qumran. He has primarily
>in view city/town Essenes, and his description is consciously generalized:
>"They occupy no one city, but settle in large numbers in every town . . .
>in every city . . ." (War, 2:124, 126).
Logical Fallacy: False Premises. "Clearly," "primarily," and "consciously
generalized" are subjective interpretations of the text.
Logical Fallacy: Irrevelance. Qumran is neither a city nor a town, it
follows that Josephus's city mice were not at Qumran either.
>Pliny, on the other hand, I think did have in mind the community at Qumran,..."
Logical Fallacy: Impossible analogy. Pliny's description of the Judean Essene
community hardly fits this part of the dead sea coast. What's more, there isn't
a scintilla of evidence that Pliny had any sort of Jews in mind; in fact, his
description fits early Theravadin Sangha's far better.
Logical Fallacy: Circular Reasoning. The evidence for such a community at
Qumran rests on similarities between 1Qs and Josephus' description. Back-
annotating it to Pliny (or Philo!) takes considerable mental contortions.
There is no other evidence.
BTW, Daniel, to misquote is either rude or careless.
>(1) Altman's calculations assume that the description of Essenes in
>Josephus requires them to be working hard in the blazing sun for 16 hours a
>day, with no attempt to avoid the heat of the day as one would have to at
This is a gross misquotation; please go back and read what I wrote in the
various posts, not what you _want_ to read.
Dr. Rochelle I. Altman, co-coordinator IOUDAIOS-L firstname.lastname@example.org
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