Philosophy

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McTaggart's Paradox: Two Parodies

Kenneth Rankina1

a1 University of Victoria

To be truly provocative and outrageous the superior philosophical sophistry will commonly possess four somewhat adventitious features. I shall rate it as classic if it has all four. First, and least adventitiously, the argument will be crisp and initially seductive. Second, by the standard the sophistry sets direct rebuttal will be laborious and diffuse. Third, the recipe for the latter will prescribe that we pick out some hitherto unarticulated logical principle (e.g. ‘Existence is not a real predicate’) such that if the principle be true then the sophistical argument must be invalid, and then, on the strength of that consequence assume the principle to be true. Consequently and fourth, as an antidote parody is supreme. With a persuasive absence of fuss and bias we can turn the tables if we show that, if the sophistical argument were really valid, then some structurally similar argument would prove just as consummately far too much. In short, from the rhetorical point of view at least, Gaunilo is more lethal than Kant. Even if the similarity is defective, the sophist will lose some of his adventitious and insufferable poise, if he ventures to show why.