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GOOD , VALID , STRONG ARGUMENTS

What is a Good Argument?
What is a Valid Argument?
What is a Strong Argument?
What are the Tests for an Argument to be Good?

WHAT IS A GOOD ARGUMENT ?
1. Good reason to believe = PLAUSIBLE PREMISES
2. The Conclusion follows from the premises

A CLAIM IS PLAUSIBLE if we have good reason to believe it is true.
A claim is LESS PLAUSIBLE if we have less reason to believe it is
true.
A claim is IMPLAUSIBLE /
DUBIOUS if we have no reason to believe it is true.

WE ACCEPT A CLAIM if we know it is true from our own experience.
WE REJECT A CLAIM if we know it is false from our own experience.
Except if :
1. We have good reason to doubt our memory .
2. The claim contradicts other experiences of ours .
3. There is a good argument about the claim.

But too often , we remember what we DEDUCED from our experience ,
and not what we ACTUALLY experienced .

E.g. This is what Tom saw : A shabbily-dressed youth in an empty
classroom who spotted a purse on a table. The youth looked shiftily around
him. The next moment, the youth was gone and so was the purse.
This is what Tom says : That youth stole the purse. I saw him
do it. He was in the classroom and he spotted a purse on the table. He
looked around pretty shiftily and thought he could get away with taking the
purse. So he grabbed it and went.
1. How does Tom know the youth thought that he could get away with it? 
Tom is just making up a story.

SO. and looked around for her. What makes Tom say the youth looked around shiftily as if to steal the purse?  Perhaps the youth recognized that the purse belonged to his girlfriend / sister.   False Premise Conclusion does not follow from the premise ( No good reason to believe )  . Instead.      Tom SHOULD NOT HAVE DEDUCED / INFERRED FROM HIS PREVIOUS KNOWLEDGE / EXPERIENCE of some thief looking around quickly and stealing a purse. Tom SHOULD NOT HAVE COME TO THE CONCLUSION that the youth is the thief. Tom SHOULD HAVE DISTINGUISHED WHAT HE HAD SEEN FROM WHAT HE HAD DEDUCED / INFERRED. Only then would Tom have realized that HE HAS NO GOOD ARGUMENT to make the conclusion he made. he decided to take it for her.   False Premise So False Conclusion ( No good reason to believe )  BAD ARGUMENT All books are written by women. So the author of this book is a woman. So the author of this book is a human being. When he didn’t see her. How does Tom know the youth grabbed the purse?  Tom didn’t see him do that ! 3.2. WHAT MAKES A GOOD ARGUMENT? Is it an argument that convinces the listener? What if Ann is in a bad mood. All books are written by women. and nothing you say would convince her? What if Jimmy is drunk and you can’t convince him not to drive himself home? Does it mean your argument is bad? j Consider the following arguments.

So the author of this book is either a man or a woman. So you should treat dogs humanely.  Good / Bad argument? Why?  EXAMPLES OF A BAD ARGUMENT [1] ARGUING IN A CIRCLE A : God exists. ______________________________________________________________________________  WHAT IS A VALID ARGUMENT ? . He is giving a bad [2] BEGGING THE QUESTION Dogs have souls.BAD ARGUMENT All books are written by humans. argument. * A is arguing in a circle with his premises (*). So Dr. An argument begs the question if one of its premises is LESS PLAUSIBLE than the conclusion. So he is qualified to teach critical analysis. E is bald. It is a bad argument. E is very critical in his assessment of everything. * B : But why do you think that’s true? A : Because God wrote the Bible.  Good / Bad argument? Why? Dr. B : How do you know? A : Because the Bible says so.  Plausible Premise the premise ( Good reason to believe )  Conclusion follows from  GOOD ARGUMENT Dr. E teaches Critical Analysis.

Suzy is a college student. So he is good at teaching Critical Analysis.  VALID ARGUMENT Dr. So Suzy has to pay fees. some logicians are Greeks. E is very analytical. and all humans are mortal. So the Prime Minister of Malaysia is less than 35 years old. Therefore. and some logicians are tiresome. Therefore. There is no possible way for the premises to be true and the conclusion false.   INVALID ARGUMENT A Valid Argument can be a GOOD / BAD ARGUMENT. then Conclusion must also be true. Dr. all Greeks are mortal. Some Greeks are logicians. 3.  Premise not plausible / Dubious premise  Are these VALID Arguments? 1. CONDITION FOR A VALID ARGUMENT : If the premises are true.  VALID + BAD ARGUMENT   If Premise true. the conclusion also has to be true. . some Greeks are tiresome. All Greeks are human. premises. then Conclusion must also be true. 2. So he is bald.  VALID +  If Premises true. E is very analytical. GOOD ARGUMENT  Premises plausible Conclusion follows from the Every elected official in Malaysia is less than 35 years old. Some Greeks are logicians. Therefore. Every college student has to pay fees.

Therefore. and some logicians are tiresome. Therefore.  INVALID GREEKS TIRESOME LOGICIANS Some Greeks are logicians  Some logicians are tiresome.  INVALID . some men are rich. we are all doomed. some Greeks are tiresome  No. Answers : 1 Valid 2 Valid 3 Invalid 4 Valid 5 Invalid No. Therefore. some men are rich. Some hawkers are rich. some Greeks are tiresome.4. We are not all saved. Therefore. 5.  Therefore. Either we are all doomed or we are all saved. Some men are hawkers.  INVALID MEN Some men are hawkers HAWKERS RICH   Some hawkers are rich Therefore. Some hawkers are rich. 5 : Some men are hawkers. some men are rich. 3: Some Greeks are logicians.

So A is not diamond. Not Q. then Q. A : mammal blooded C : bird B (i) Example All mammals are warm-blooded. So. C is A. So elephants are warm-blooded. some men are rich. A : mammal blooded C : elephant A (ii) INVALI D VALID All mammals are warm-blooded. So. P : diamond glass If an object is diamond.Another way to determine whether an argument is valid : a COUNTER-EXAMPLE with the SAME ARGUMENT FORM give Some men are hawkers. A cannot cut glass.  INVALID COUNTER-EXAMPLE : Some men are herbivores.  B : warm- If P. Birds are warm-blooded.  B : warm- All A are B. So birds are mammals. some men are zebras. Elephants are mammals. So C is B.  Q : cut . Some hawkers are rich. So C is A. So not P.  INVALID ( This is obviously false ) No. Some herbivores are zebras. C is B. then it can cut glass. A (i) Criteria VALID All A are B.

then Q. So not Q. So A cannot cut glass. A can cut glass. P : diamond glass C (ii) If an object is diamond.  Q : cut If P. P is true.  If an object is diamond. then Q. YES = INVALID ARGUMENT How likely is the premise/s false?   . Q is true. Consider each of the premises. then it can cut glass. So A can cut glass. So A is a diamond. then it can cut glass. So Q is also true. then Q. How TRUE is each premise? 4. then it can cut glass. So P is also true. is the conclusion FALSE?   NO = VALID ARGUMENT Every way the premises could be true. Not P. Be creative and imagine every premise POSSIBLE. If an object is diamond. 2.  _______________________________________________________________________________  WHAT IS A STRONG ARGUMENT ? Below is the PROCESS involved in ANALYZING WHETHER THE CONCLUSION FOLLOWS FROM THE PREMISES of an argument : 1. A is not a diamond. 3. In any way.B (ii) INVALI D If P. A is a diamond. P : diamond glass C (i) VALID INVALI D Q : cut If P.

___________VALID___________I__________________INVALID__________________ ____ STRONG -------------------I-------------------------------WEAK __________BAD____________  THREE INDEPENDENT TESTS for an argument to be GOOD 1. The PREMISES are plausible. * Every WEAK argument is BAD. did you? A : No. The PREMISES are more plausible than the Conclusion. is not in the house. 2. is their friend. UNLIKELY VERY UNLIKELY NOT SO = STRONG = WEAK ARGUMENT ARGUMENT * Every GOOD argument is VALID / STRONG. . ( because a premise could be implausible ) * Only INVALID arguments are classified from STRONG TO WEAK. [I] Consider the following conversation between A and C. The ARGUMENT IS valid / strong.the conclusion is true. you’ve got some in the fridge now. renting a house together. why? C : Well. C : You didn’t have any eggs in the house this morning. and C have just come back to A’s house from a late-night movie. A C A B and B are housemates. 3. * Not every VALID / STRONG argument is GOOD.

B must have bought the eggs. (2) Premise (1) . since she knew I was out and wouldn’t be back till late at night.She knew I was out and wouldn’t be back till late at night. did you? No. (2) Premises (3) . She didn’t plan to have any guests over today. there are SO MANY LIKELY POSSIBILITIES for the premise to be true and the Conclusion false that makes A’s argument a WEAK ARGUMENT. No one has a key to my house except B. A’s ARGUMENT : (1) Conclusion . since she knew I was out and wouldn’t be back till late at night. C : Are you sure? A : Sure. B must have bought the eggs.A : B must have bought the eggs. And she didn’t plan to have any guests over today. A’s ARGUMENT : (1) Conclusion . A’s argument is NOT VALID. the conclusion is not necessarily true because B’s mother / friend / landlord could have brought over the eggs and placed them in the fridge when they were out. Hence. [II] Let us reconsider the conversation between A and C. No one has a key to my house except B.She knew I was out and wouldn’t be back till late at night. C A C A : : : : You didn’t have any eggs in the house this morning. Even though the premise is true. ( implying no .B must have bought the eggs. you’ve got some in the fridge now. why? Well.

And she always keeps her word. B always keeps her word. A’s argument is A LOT STRONGER now because SO MANY OF THE WAYS in which the .one else could have been in the house except B. No one has a key to my house except B. A’s ARGUMENT : (1) Conclusion . But it is STILL NOT A VERY STRONG ARGUMENT. B must have bought the eggs. [III] Now consider a further conversation between A and C. did you? No. C : Are you sure? A : Sure. C A C A : : : : You didn’t have any eggs in the house this morning.B must have bought the eggs. Z say she had some eggs from her son’s farm? A : Yes. you’ve got some in the fridge now. And we never let anyone else in. B said we should only bring food into the house that we had purchased ourselves at the health-food store. (2) Premises (5) .She knew I was out and wouldn’t be back till late at night. why? Well. No one has a key to my house except B. C : But didn’t your neighbor Mrs. since she knew I was out and wouldn’t be back till late at night.) A’s argument is STRONGER now because SOME OF THE POSSIBLE WAYS the Premises could be true and the Conclusion false HAVE BEEN RULED OUT by having more premises. but B said we should only bring food into the house that we had purchased ourselves at the health-food store. We never let anyone else in.

and put the eggs in the fridge / a burglar could have broken in and left the eggs behind / B could have bought a chicken and left it in the fridge and it laid eggs there / ETC. Mr. Tan has been teaching for 20 years. . So the argument is STRONG. STILL. ___________________________________________________________________________ EXERCISE : Evaluate the following argument. Tan has been teaching for 20 years.Premises could be true and the Conclusion false HAVE BEEN RULED OUT. So he is a good teacher. Mr. So he is a good teacher. THE ARGUMENT IS NOT VALID because the landlord could have gotten a locksmith to open the door. THESE ARE POSSIBLE WAYS that the Premises could be true and the Conclusion false! BUT THEY ARE ALL SO UNLIKELY.

is it a STRONG / WEAK ARGUMENT ? 4. ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ . ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ So. List as many criteria ( premises ) as you can that Mr. So. Now repair the argument to make it a GOOD / STRONG ARGUMENT. Tan must have to be a good teacher. because there are other criteria ( premises ) for being a good teacher. Tan being a good teacher just because he has been teaching for 20 years? > 50% / < 50% chance So. If it is true that Mr. is it a VALID ARGUMENT ? Yes / No Is it an INVALID ARGUMENT ? Yes / No 3. Tan has been teaching for 20 years. is it ALSO TRUE that he is a good teacher? Yes / No So. what is the POSSIBILITY / CERTAINTY of Mr. Which claim is the CONCLUSION ? _____________________________________________  Which claim is the PREMISE? __________________________________________________ Is the premise plausible? Yes / No  Does the conclusion follow from the premise? Yes / No 1. is it a GOOD ARGUMENT? Yes / No WHY ? ____________________________________________________________________ 2.

00pm and unlocked the door. He was mowing the lawn near my office.00pm. I saw the gardener. I was shocked to discover my drawer broken into. On my way to the cafeteria. Good? Valid? Strong? I locked the office and left for lunch at 1. Evaluate the following argument yourself. and 500 dollars gone! The gardener must have taken it! Good argument? Why / why not? ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ Valid argument? Why / why not? ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ Strong argument? Why / why not? ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ IrenechinIICP2015__________________________________________________________________ __ . When I returned at 2.5. There was no one else around.