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noblenutria@gmail.com

Is a "Kafka Trap" a logical fallacy?

 Definition from https://debate.fandom.com/wiki/Kafka_Trap#:~:text=A%20Kafka%20trap%20is%20a,the%20Austrian%20writer%20Franz%20Kafka.

A Kafka trap is a fallacy where if someone denies being x it is taken as evidence that the person is x since someone who is x would deny being x. The name is derived from the novel The Trial by the Austrian writer Franz Kafka.

An example is...
Example 1
A spy is a person who conceals their identity as a spy.  There is no evidence that Jacob is a spy, therefore he must be a spy.  

As soon as I wrote that down I realized it was an argument from ignorance, but there are other kafka trap formulations which are not arguments from ignorance.  

Example 2
You know how you know you are a racist?  If you deny being a racist.

Any accusation can be made into a kafka trap.  You are a murderer, liar, rapist, con artist, etc, if you deny that you are one.  

-Jacob

asked on Saturday, Aug 29, 2020 12:08:34 PM by noblenutria@gmail.com

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mchasewalker writes:

interesting question. It seems more of a paradox or perhaps hasty generalization fallacy similar to The Witch Trap: if you deny being a witch you will be tortured and burned as a witch, but if you confess to being a witch you will be forgiven, but hanged. 

posted on Saturday, Aug 29, 2020 12:29:45 PM

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Answers

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Kaiden
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Hi, Jacob! 

Let me assume there is a person A and then number the two mutually exclusive and exhaustive hypothesizes:

1. Person A is x.
2. Person A is not x.

I think that the key problem with a Kafka-style argument is that 1 and 2 are empirically equivalent with respect to person A’s denial of being x. Person A denying that she is an x is compatible with hypotheses 1 and 2 and is at least as probable under hypothesis 2 as it is under hypothesis 1. If person A is a racist, one would, upon confronting her, expect person A to deny being a racist. Yet, if person A is a not racist, one would, upon confronting her, expect person A to deny being a racist. The consequences of the hypotheses are equivalent with respect to person A denying being x. So, a Kafka-style argument (person A denies being x) is not providing any substantial reason to believe 1 rather than 2!

And  ask the person who is accusing you if he himself is a spy, murderer, etc. If he denies it, you’ve got him in his own trap!

 

Thank you, Jacob.

From, Kaiden

 

 

 

 

answered on Saturday, Aug 29, 2020 04:19:08 PM by Kaiden

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Dr. Richard writes:

To say “Person A is x and then say Person A is not-x” is the violation of the Law of Identity. This is only one of several errors contained in the statement following the proposition A is both x and non-x. I will deal only with it.

“The three Aristotelian laws of logic are: the Law of Identity, the Law of Contradiction, the Law of Excluded Middle. The last two are merely corollaries or restatements of the first.

“The Law of Identity states that everything which is, is what it is— that a thing is itself—that a thing's identity is that which it is. In algebraic formulation, the Law of Identity is stated as: A is A.

“The Law of Identity was discussed in the first lecture as the basic principle of metaphysics. It is crucially important now to realize that the Law of Identity is also the basic principle of epistemology. It is the link between the two sciences, the bridge between existence and consciousness, between reality and knowledge.

“As a principle of metaphysics, the Law of Identity tells us that everything which is, is what it is. As a principle of epistemology, it tells us that contradictions cannot exist, that a thing cannot be A and not-A and, therefore, if we reach a contradiction in our thinking and draw two contradictory conclusions about the same thing in the same context, we have made an error. Our thinking is wrong. Our thinking does not correspond to reality, and we must check our conclusions, our reasons for them, our premises.

The Law of Contradiction and the Law of Excluded Middle are specifically epistemological restatements of the Law of Identity. They are epistemological rules to guide man's thinking.

“The Law of Contradiction states that nothing can be A and non-A at the same time and in the same respect. Thus, if the Law of Identity states that a table is a table, then the Law of Contradiction states that nothing can be a table and not a table at the same time and in the same respect. A tablecloth cannot be green and non-green at the same time and in the same respect. Contradictions cannot exist. At the same time and in the same respect, no attribute can be present and absent, no effort can succeed and fail to succeed, no action can be good and not good, no entity can be man and not man, no man can be alive and dead.

“It is the Law of Contradiction which teaches us that if all men are mortal, and Socrates is a man, it is rational to infer that Socrates is mortal and irrational to conclude that he is not—that if a theory conflicts with the facts of reality, the theory must be rejected; that a theory, to be valid, must integrate all and clash with none of the relevant evidence—that if a scientist's investigations lead him to the formulation of two mutually exclusive hypotheses, at least one of these hypotheses is wrong—that no proposition can be both true and false—that if a mother simultaneously demands of her children that they think independently and that they obey her on blind faith, she is not a practitioner of rationality, and neither is an employer who gives switching and irreconcilable orders, and neither is a moralist who preaches that self-abnegation leads to self- fulfillment, and neither is a political theorist who declares that men can achieve freedom only by establishing a slave society. Logic is the art of non-contradictory identification.

“The Law of Excluded Middle states that everything is either A or non-A at a given time and in a given respect. For instance, either this is a table, or it is not a table. Either this tablecloth is green, or it is not green. Observe, and this is very important, that I have not said: either this is a table, or it is a chair. I have said: either this is a table, or it is not a table. I have said: either this tablecloth is green, or it is not green.

“In accordance with the Law of Excluded Middle, I could also have said: either this tablecloth is red, or it is not red. This would be true in regard to this particular tablecloth. It is not red. But I could not say, as a universal principle: either this tablecloth is green, or it is red. This would be an obvious absurdity. A tablecloth may be green or red or blue or yellow or plaid or polka-dotted, etc. But whatever color a particular tablecloth happens to be, the universal alternative is only: that color or not that color, green or not green, red or not red, polka-dotted or not polka-dotted, etc.— this particular identity or not this particular identity, without specifying any other kind of particular identity. The Law of Excluded Middle states: everything is either A or non-A. It does not state: everything is either A or B.”

posted on Sunday, Aug 30, 2020 01:32:03 PM
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Kaiden writes:

[To Dr. Richard]

Hi, Dr. Richard! What an intriguing explanation of these important principles and laws. Now, since your comment was posted to me and not to Jacob, I wonder are you trying to explain a mistake in my Answer or just expanding upon my critique of the Kafka-style? I can’t tell, but I like much of what you’ve posted.

 

Also, your paragraph on the Law of Identity says that it was discussed “in the first lecture”. What lecture are you quoting these bulks of passages from? I may be interested in checking it out, as well. 

[ login to reply ] posted on Sunday, Aug 30, 2020 04:59:48 PM
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Dr. Richard writes:

Error on my part. I intended it for the one who asked the original question. I'm new to the forum and hit the wrong button. Sorry about that. I think my answer does supplement yours, though.

posted on Sunday, Aug 30, 2020 05:07:19 PM
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Kaiden writes:
[To Dr. Richard]

No worries at all, Dr. Richard.

[ login to reply ] posted on Sunday, Aug 30, 2020 05:17:32 PM
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Bo Bennett, PhD
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This is a key aspect of the Conspiracy Theory - denial is seen as evidence that it is true.

I have a hard time even justifying this as a fallacy because it is not deceptive to fool enough people. With the exception of perhaps the extreme of the radical left, calling someone X and having them refute it is far from convincing. Perhaps I am being too generous in my assumption that people are smarter than this. :)

answered on Saturday, Aug 29, 2020 12:15:55 PM by Bo Bennett, PhD

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noblenutria@gmail.com writes:

I think Robin Diangelo's White Fragility is full of Kafka traps and millions of people in the US see this book as the bible on race relations in America.  I found an example from an interview.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/07/health/white-fragility-robin-diangelo-wellness/index.html
The impact is a weaponized defensiveness, hurt feelings and umbrage because it marshals behind it the weight of history and institutional power. We have some work to do in building our stamina. But we won't build it as long as we believe that only mean people who intentionally want to hurt others based on race could ever do so.

Jacob
When I read this I see, "Denial of racism is proof of racism".  The only way to work on your own internalized racism is to first admit that you are a racist.  If you admit you are a racist you are a racist.  If you deny that you are a racist then you are a racist.  I feel that most of the Left is in the grip of this kafka trap.  There is no way to not be a racist or a white supremacist.  

posted on Saturday, Aug 29, 2020 12:48:22 PM
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Bo Bennett, PhD writes:
[To Jacob]

All I can say about her book: Why would I want to read a book by an admitted racist?

[ login to reply ] posted on Saturday, Aug 29, 2020 01:18:07 PM
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noblenutria@gmail.com writes:
[To Bo Bennett, PhD]

I  knew I would not like it before I started reading it.  Most of my liberal friends agree with everything in this book.  I read it for research purposes.  Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.  

[ login to reply ] posted on Saturday, Aug 29, 2020 03:14:31 PM
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Bo Bennett, PhD writes:
[To Jacob]

I heard Bret Weinstein talk about this as well. I read that CNN page but I cannot find any declaration "Denial of racism is proof of racism". Am I missing this? Or is this something inferred when reading between the lines?

[ login to reply ] posted on Saturday, Aug 29, 2020 01:21:47 PM
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noblenutria@gmail.com writes:
[To Bo Bennett, PhD]

I think it is inferred.  She is talking specifically about white fragility, as in denying white fragility is proof of white fragility, but I feel that the meanings of white fragility, implicit bias, and white supremacy are all mashed together into one in her book and on social media.  

[ login to reply ] posted on Saturday, Aug 29, 2020 01:30:44 PM
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noblenutria@gmail.com writes:

I found a white fragility self test which a friend sent to me.

1. Do I feel defensive when a person of color says “white people?”
2. Do I feel angry when people tell me that I benefit from white privilege?
3. When a person of color talks about race, do I feel defensive because they’re describing things that I do or think as racist?
4. Do I feel angry or annoyed by the above questions?
5. Do I have a history of embracing or growing up in racism that I feel ashamed of and so I need to show people that I’m not racist anymore?
6. Does saying “Not all white people” or similar phrases make me feel better when someone calls white people out for something?
7. Do I expect an apology when I feel like I’ve been unfairly accused of racism?
8. Do I feel better when I say, hear, or read, “It’s okay to be white?”
9. Do I try to convince people of color that they’re wrong about racism by pointing out people from their racial group who agree with me?
10. Do I feel the need to talk about how hard my ancestors had it when they immigrated, or explain my own hardships when a person of color talks about being oppressed?
11. Do I think that racism would go away if people stopped talking about it?
12. Does being told that something I say, think, do, or otherwise value is racist make me want to shut down, leave, or express my discomfort/displeasure in some way?
13. Do I feel the need to state that I have friends/family who are people of color when someone accuses me of racism?
14. Do I feel the need to prove that I’m not racist?
15. Do I feel that my opinions and perspectives about race should be given equal weight to that of a person of color, that I have something unique and important to contribute to the race conversation, and/or that it is unfair to be told to listen more than I speak?
16. Do I feel the need to defend myself on any of the above points in the comment section? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are dealing with white fragility. Take time to reflect on why you feel the way that you do. Take time to listen to different perspectives. White fragility is a hindrance to racial healing because it prevents people of color from being able to engage white people in honest conversation without also having to bear the burden of catering to white people’s emotional comfort. At its worst, white fragility can cause an emotionally unhealthy situation for people of color because of racial power dynamics and the weight of being responsible for white folks’ feelings while not having space to express our own. There is also the weight that comes with people that you care about lashing out at and abusing you (verbally, emotionally, and/or digitally). If we cannot talk honestly about the issues, then we cannot make progress. *White Fragility, as defined by DiAngelo, is the result of white racial socialization. A state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, guilt, and behaviors such and as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial comfort and status quo.

posted on Saturday, Aug 29, 2020 12:57:08 PM
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Bo Bennett, PhD writes:
[To Jacob]

You inspired an episode of the Dr. Bo Show: https://www.hostingauthors.com/posts/bobennett/white-fragility-quiz.html

 

[ login to reply ] posted on Sunday, Aug 30, 2020 08:47:23 AM
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noblenutria@gmail.com writes:
[To Bo Bennett, PhD]

Thanks for the detailed response and I am honored to have inspired an episode of your Podcast.  I read the whole thing and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I love hearing what professional thinkers have to say about important social issues.  

I felt weird leaving all of my commentary on your blog post so I will write it in here.  I feel like this forum is less formal.  

Most of my friends are pretty far to the left.  This is because I teach acrobatics and yoga and most of these types are liberal spiritual kinds of people.  They wanted Sanders or Warren to be nominated and in November will have to "hold their noses" and vote for Biden, the establishment candidate.  I am an atheist amongst throngs of not religious but spiritual people.  They understand atheism on some levels but when I try to explain to people that I don't believe in souls they look at me like I am a psychopath.  I am saying this because I feel that there are dismally few people who seek out truth in the same way as my model thinkers: Sam harris, Dan Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, etc.  Even among the people who don't believe in a religion most believe in a host of conspiracy theories or are disposed to magical thinking of all kinds.  

I see the study of fallacies as a cure to racism: Identity fallacy, bulverism, stereotyping, division, composition, etc.  It's not okay to be racist to any group.  It's not okay to be prejudiced against any group, but the far left has concocted many loopholes where it is okay to hate this or that group if this leads to a good outcome (consequence fallacy).  All white people are racist because of the color of their skin.  All black people are not racist because of the color of their skin.  A few police are confirmed racist therefore they all are.  Mostly white American institutions are racist therefore all individual white people are racist.  Groan.  

Anyway, about Kafka Traps.  I posted on your forum a few weeks ago about question begging.  I had examples like "The Ministry of Truth" from the book "1984": the propaganda arm of the government tasked with coming up with a never ending stream of lies.  You said these were not question begging because they were not arguments.  True, but they are still rhetorical tricks.  There are many out there.  The terms "pro choice" and "pro life" are kafka traps.  You are against pro choice?  That means you are against choosing!  You are against pro life?  That means you are against life!  Antifascist is a kafka trap because it appears that anyone who opposes antiracists must therefore be a racist.  This leads to a trap where a person is disposed to agree with anything done in the name of antifascism, no matter how atrocious, in order to avoid being called a fascist.  

I agreed with your whole blog post, except for the end.  I was puzzled why you accepted the label of white fragility.  This is a kafka trap.  Maybe you were being ironic.  I feel that the trap here is that the author of the quiz seeks to undermine my philosophy by labeling it with a pejorative term.  Take question 8 for example.  You admitted to feeling better when you say, hear, or read, "It's okay to be white".  According to the author of this quiz this indicates that you are "fragile".  The purpose of the term is to weaken the stance of arguments against those like Robin Diangelo.  You don't agree with Robin Diangelo?  This is because you are irrationally defensive and fragile.  Arguing against her points is proof of her points.  Furthermore you have to take on the rest of the meaning of the term.  Every time you do not answer in the way expected by the quiz this is more evidence of your white fragility, which is evidence of your racism.  

At this point I have to check myself because my last argument looks like a slippery slope.  Question 8 does not clearly lead a person from white fragility to racism.  Question 14 does this more obviously.  Do you feel the need to prove that you are not a racist?  You said No.  That means you have white fragility which means you are a racist.  I mean, to accept that you have white fragility is also to accept that you are a racist.  I doubt that you would say, "If this is what it means to be racist then I am okay with that."

Actually question 14 is trickier than I thought, because it is a fallacy of complex question.  Before asking if I feel the need to prove that I am not racist it must first be ascertained if I am racist in the first place.  

If the arguments made in this quiz are wrong then you could replace "white fragility" with any word and the argument would still be wrong.  It could be a positive or negative label and it would still be faulty reasoning.  

Them: You have white fragility if you deny that you are a racist
Me: I am not a racist
Them: Therefore you are a racist

Them:  You are attractive if you deny that you are attractive
Me: I am not attractive
Them: Therefore you are attractive

Them: You are a murderer if you deny that you are a murderer
Me: I am not a murderer
Them: Therefore you are a murderer

Last thing.  I don't believe the author of the quiz was Robin Diangelo.  I asked where my friend got the quiz but no response yet.  I searched for the quiz online and could not find it.  I am not sure to what extent Robin Diangelo herself would agree with this quiz, but I did read her book, and it does line up with her beliefs.  You wisely presented the quiz as a random quiz from the internet and not written by Diangelo.  It doesn't really matter if she did not write it, because I know personally many who agree wholeheartedly with the tone of the quiz.  The main problem with the quiz that too few people see through its rhetorical trickery.   

[ login to reply ] posted on Monday, Aug 31, 2020 12:24:27 PM
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noblenutria@gmail.com writes:

[To Jacob]

I read that a problem with kafka traps is that they are not falsifiable.  

"You know how I know that you are a spy?  Because spies deny that they are spies."

If I say that I am not a spy I am a spy and if I say that I am a spy I am a spy.  There is no evidence which could prove to my captor that I am not a spy.  

Unfalsifiability is in your book on fallacies, so if all kafka traps are unfalsifiable then all are fallacies.  Many are not written out as arguments, like the ministry of truth, but they imply an argument.  The ministry of truth always tell the truth because it is called the ministry of truth - which is a circular argument.

Actually the kafka trap is a different implied argument - "If you disagree with the ministry of truth then you disagree with truth itself.  What objection could you possibly have against truth?"

[ login to reply ] posted on Monday, Aug 31, 2020 12:32:59 PM
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Bo Bennett, PhD writes:
[To Jacob]

Thanks for the detailed comments. Here was my thinking in "accepting" "White Fragility:"

I have actually done the same with the label "racist." I find that there are two arguments: 1) X is defined as Y, 2) you are X. The #1 is the implied argument where #2 is the explicit argument. I find most people arguing against #2 when they should be arguing against #1. Another strategy is much simpler... simply create argument #1 as a condition and accept argument #2.

If you mean by "racist" being white, then by that definition, I am racist.

(Tip: so people can't quote you out of context: "then I am, by that definition, racist.)

If you then have the energy and the will, argue why this is a poor way to define "racism."

With "White Fragility" there is another element to it... it is a made-up term by DiAngelo. If that is how she defines it, who I am to argue? I am not admitting "fragility;" I am essentially demonstrating how her quiz is invalid by not fitting her definition (although we acknowledge that this might not even be her quiz).

[ login to reply ] posted on Monday, Aug 31, 2020 01:03:25 PM
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noblenutria@gmail.com writes:

I think I see.  You are making an argument to the absurd or an argument to the consequences.  Diangelos implied arguments lead to your answers.  

Personally I think this tack is too sophisticated for the average social media user.  I would avoid being called a racist or any of their made up labels.  The word “racist” has a specific meaning which people like diangelo are trying to change.  They cheat by trying to change the definitions of words.  Anyway thanks for the clarity.  

posted on Monday, Aug 31, 2020 04:11:51 PM