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Re: begging the question

On Mon, Sep 29, 2003 at 05:02:00PM -0600, Barak Pearlmutter wrote:
> Branden Robinson <branden@debian.org> wrote:
> > On Sun, Sep 28, 2003 at 12:22:31PM -0600, Barak Pearlmutter wrote:
> > > Scanning all our packages for such snippets would be a truly
> > > gargantuan task.
> > 
> > And yet at the same time you claim that the inclusion of any particular
> > such "snippet" was a fully conscious decision made at the time the
> > Social Contract and Debian Free Software Guidelines were adopted.
> > 
> > Have you any evidence that this "truly gargantuan task" was undertaken
> > back then?
> > 
> > You undermine your own argument.
> > 
> > When we find non-DFSG-free materials in main, we should remove them, or
> > request their relicensing.
> Why was this begging the question?
> First (as a comment on a completely tangential portion of the train of
> logic you're responding to) you say that somehow not doing something
> now is a lot of work because it was more work to not do it in the
> past.  If we'd known we were doing it, so we must not have known.
> Which would be a lot of work.  Or something like that.

I cannot follow this at all.  It is riddled with sentence fragments and
vagueness.  To convincingly illustrate a logical fallacy (such as
begging the question) in someone else's argument, one must do by the
same standards of logic one purports to uphold.

As I understand it, you assert:

1 The Debian OS is riddled with minutae and desiderata whose origins are
  unknown and/or whose copyright lineage and licensing is vague or
2 All developers who were around when the Social Contract was ratified
  knew, or should have known, that the Debian OS was riddled with such
3 We should not remove any one of these minute bits of detritus unless
  we are willing to undertake the gargantuan task of scrunitizing our OS
  for all of them and purging them.

Mixed in with the above is your assertion that the GNU Manifesto is so
important, and should have been so obviously known to all developers
when the Social Contract and DFSG were adopted, that we cannot possibly
have meant any interpretation of those documents which would exclude it
(the GNU Manifesto) from our distribution.

I concur with assertion 1.

I find assertion 2 irrelevant.  If the minutae and desiderata are truly
unimportant then we cannot insist that they loom large in anyone's
consciousness.  Perhaps people were aware of them, but because they
shared your implied premise that they are unimportant, explicitly
excluded them from their deliberations of the impact of the Social
Contract and DFSG.

I reject premise 3.  I see no reason we cannot scrutinize minutae and
desiderata on an ad hoc, case-by-case basis.  If they're unimportant,
they're unimportant.  Let them remain so until someone makes them

This is very close to the same argument I made in the PennMUSH thread.
In that situation, people have made reasonable efforts to track down all
copyright holders and establish their intentions.  We (Debian) believe
the upstream maintainers have been as diligent and careful as we can
expect them to be under the circumstances.  We therefore do not insist
that every line of source code be associated with some corresponding
affidavit of origin and licensing.  We can reasonably have a good-faith
belief that we are not infringing anyone's rights or privileges.  We may
turn out to be wrong, in which case we will have to act.  But until
then, why should we sweat details on behalf of an offended party which
we have no reason to believe even exists?

You specifically used the example of jokes in your argument.  Do you
attempt to identify a copyright holder before re-telling, say, a timely
political joke[1] at your table in a restaurant, which could constitute
a "public performance" and thus impose a responsibility upon for payment
of royalties to the rightsholder?

I think the above example is laughably absurd, and I think you are
asking Debian to be no less anal-retentive.

You attempted to divorce your argument on this point from the ongoing
GNU FDL discussions, but I'll bring them back in.  Anything the FSF
goes to the trouble of placing under the GNU FDL, and any portion of a
work under the GNU FDL that they care to identify as an Invariant
Section, is clearly important to them.  Anything that is important
enough to a copyright holder to warrant such treatment (which
fortunately is usually accompanied by clear copyright and license
notices) cannot be regarded as a desideratum or minutia under premise 1.

> Then you state your conclusion.  Or premise, it's hard to tell.  But
> you seem to find the conclusion you advocate so patently obvious---as
> obvious as the fact that the people who edit movies are software
> engineers because movies are digital now and hence software following
> our brave newspeak general-purpose all-encompassing definition of
> software---that it requires no support, mere restatement.

The above is an example of the "straw man" fallacy, in which you have
constructed an argument (movie editors in digital media are software
engineers), placed it in my mouth, and then ridiculed it.

In any event, I find your argument that I begged the question
unconvincing.  That you claim to be unable to distinguish my premises
from my conclusions either means that I argued unclearly (which you
explicitly disclaimed in your next message), or that you have misapplied
the term.

For future reference, I recommend using direct quotations from a
person's argument to illustrate their fallacies, instead of translating
them into analogies of your own making, retelling them in the form of
sentence fragments, and wrapping up your point with a strong "Or
something like that.".

[1] A timely political joke is likely to have been coined recently, and
    thus not have had its copyright lapse (this assumes a joke can be
    copyrighted at all, which is a dubious proposition in my view).

G. Branden Robinson                |     If you're handsome, it's flirting.
Debian GNU/Linux                   |     If you're a troll, it's sexual
branden@debian.org                 |     harassment.
http://people.debian.org/~branden/ |     -- George Carlin

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