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Human beings are called the rational animal. While rationality is not particular to human kind, it is arguably our most important characteristic. The ability to reason has given us science and technology, the ability to survive and flourish, and the ability to deal with the problems of daily life and to philosophize about the universe. Reason is a powerful tool and with it comes the responsibility of its proper use. You already know how to reason and probably do it quite well. In fact, you already know how to do everything we will talk about in this course. The aim of this course, however, is to teach you to reason better. Part of this involves understanding how reason works and the rules the proper use of reason needs to follow. These are things you probably don't know or haven't thought about carefully. By learning about these you can make your own arguments stronger, and can evaluate the arguments of others more effectively. Take a look at the following six passages. Which of these do you think are good arguments? 1. The discussion of the status of same-sex partnerships ignores one thing. Since prehistoric times, the family has always meant a male-female partnership intended for raising children. Who are we to undermine countless years of family life and the unquestionable facts of biology? 2. I can't believe you're telling me I should drink less. You drink at least as much as I do. You practically live on a barstool. In fact I've never seen you without a beer in your hand. 3. I find it a little odd that you'd support euthanasia for the seriously ill. That's one of the policies that Hitler supported 4. Father O'Neill says that abortion is a mortal sin. He says that it is murder since the fetus has a soul from the moment of conception. But he is a Catholic priest, and priests are required to hold views like that, so I don't think we really have to take him seriously. 5. People who claim that hunting is wrong because it kills living things are just sentimental wimps who think that feelings are a subsitute for facts. 6. I went for a walk last night but when I got to Kensington it started to snow, so I turned around and went home. If you said that none of them are good arguments, and that (6) isn't even an argument at all, then you are on the right track. If you thought otherwise, then this course can help you understand why you were mistaken
What Is an Argument? When asked to think about an argument we often imagine a disagreement of some sort, where two or more people are involved in a fight about some point or issue. This is the colloquial or everyday understanding of the word ³argument.´ We will use the word to mean something considerably broader than this. Arguments do not always involve disagreements. Television ads are arguments, yet you are not involved in a disagreement with your television (I hope). The broader definition of argument we will work with is similar to the one offered in the following audio clip: www.wilstar.com/midi/ram/argument_clinic.ram The character seeking an argument in the above sketch gives us a pretty good definition of an argument. He describes an argument as ³a collective series of statements to establish a definite proposition.´ Notice, however, that the man behind the desk assumes that in order to have an argument he must take up a ³contrary position´. This involves a different understanding of the word ³argument´ that is more like the one mentioned above. In a disagreement there are (at least) two contrary positions, and each side attempts to convince the other of the merits of their views. For our purposes, we will understand the word ³argument´ in the first sense rather than the second. I would like to augment the above definition as follows: Argument: an attempt to justify or prove a conclusion through rational means. The reason this is a more suitable understanding of the an argument is that arguments do not only occur when there are disagreements. Whenever someone tries to convince someone else of the truth of a claim through rational persuasion, that person is making an argument. When we do this, it is not necessarily the case that the person to whom the argument is directed disagrees with us. The other person might have no opinions one way or the other. The idea that an argument justifies a conclusion by means of rational persuasion is important. There are other ways to make people accept a conclusion, but the use (or threat) of force or intimidation to make people believe something is not an argument.
The Components of an Argument
Every argument has the following components:
1. A Conclusion What the argument is trying to get you to accept. In any
argument there is a claim the truth or falsity of which the speaker wants you to accept. 2. Premises Reasons used to support the conclusion. These are the points used to convince you of the truth of the conclusion of the argument. Sometimes there can be as few as one premise in an argument, or as many as one can write out or state. Indicator Words As we will see, in order to evaluate an argument it is important to be able to identify which part of the argument is the conclusion, which parts are the premises, and to be able to distinguish one premise from another. Indicator words can assist you with this task. There are certain words and phrases that tend to introduce conclusions and premises in arguments. We will call these ³indicator words.´ Indicator Words for Conclusions thus, therefore, hence, so, it follows that, shows that, indicates that, proves that, then Indicator Words for Premises for, since, because, for the reason that, on the grounds that, follows from Example Ted won the intercollegiate ten thousand meters last year and has been training hard ever since, so he should win easily this year. The word ³so´ indicates the presence of a conclusion. ³He should win easily this year´ is the conclusion of the argument. The rest of the passage is used to justify the conclusion and hence, make up the premises of the argument. Example Hockey is Canada's national sport. A country's national sport is likely to be very popular in that country. Therefore, hockey is likely to be very popular in Canada. ³Therefore´ is another indicator word that tends to introduce a conclusion. ³Hockey is likely to be very popular in Canada´ is the conclusion of the argument, and the other claims are serving as premises to support this conclusion. Example Since you have proven untrustworthy in the past, I shouldn't give you my credit
but tends to indicate the presence of a premise. claims or statements use indicator words. but does not serve that function here. which is why the indicator words they contain do not indicate the presence of conclusions or premises. but aren't arguments. . The claim that ³you have proven untrustworthy in the past´ is serving as a premise.card number. The best way to identify an argument is to learn how to distinguish one from other kinds of written or spoken passages that sometimes look like arguments. Example John's wife filed for divorce on the grounds that he had an affair with the dry cleaner. Because indicator words are not a foolproof way of identifying premises and conclusions. The above passage is not an argument at all since it is not trying to convince us of anything. Be Careful When Relying on Indicator Words Sometimes. The above two passages are not arguments. he's been depressed. ³On the grounds that´ tends to introduce a conclusion. you should not rely on them entirely. Although the word ³since´ appears here. ³Since´ is also an indicator word. There are two kinds of passages that can frequently be confused with arguments. Example Since John's wife left him. or is being used to support the claim that ³I shouldn't give you my credit card number´. They will be most reliable as guides to identifying premises and conclusions when you are already sure that the passage you are dealing with is an argument. it is not being used to introduce a premise. These are explanations and descriptions.
This explains John's fear of asking people out on dates. when we answer such questions we do so by talking about what caused them to happen. this is an explanation. and he always eats lunch at twelve o'clock. then we probably have an argument. Usually. The main point of this passage is that John went to lunch. the crucial thing in a trial is whether or not the person accused did in fact commit the crime. Example . but are still unsure even after thinking about the general difference between arguments and explanations. Does the passage in question give us evidence or causes? Explanations usually answer why-questions. Although motive is important. then you can make use of the following methods for distinguishing between arguments and explanations. not why they did it. If you read a passage and suspect that it might be an explanation rather than an argument. The rest of the passage identifies the cause of his going to lunch. It answers a whyquestion: ³Why did John go to lunch?´ If this were intended to be an argument it would not explain John's going to lunch.Explanations Arguments try to convince you of a conclusion or give you reasons to believe something is true. if a passage gives us evidence. Explanations tell you why something is true or is the way it is but give you no reasons to believe it is true. why someone did such and such. Arguments try to convince you that a particular claim is true. hence John is afraid to ask anyone out. The following does give us reasons. Example The last person he asked out on a date laughed at him. or why something happened. to believe that John went to lunch. It is therefore an explanation and not an argument. Evidence aims at establishing what is true. so arguments invoke evidence in the form of premises Example John went to lunch because he was hungry. It's twelve o'clock. There are several questions you can ask about a passage that will help you determine whether it is an argument or an explanation. but would instead try to convince us that it is true that John went to lunch. Thus. When someone offers an explanation it is in response to a question about why something is the way it is. then it is probably an explanation. if a passage identifies a cause for the main claim being discussed. or evidence. Because it identifies the cause of John's going to lunch. 1. On the other hand. Think of the purpose of evidence in a trial. Evidence is presented as part of an argument used to convince the jury of the guilt or innocence of the defendant. Saying that John was hungry does not give us any reason to believe that he in fact went to lunch. and is therefore an argument:John went to lunch.
This is a reliable guide for the following reason. 1. then. When you argue with someone you try to get him or her to accept something they didn't accept before. One often sees arguments about which one out of a number of competing causes is the correct one for some event or phenomenon. In this case we are presented with two explanations for the vase breaking: Dewy broke it or the dog broke it. Hence. If the other person accepts everything you say. he has no nose. The following chart helps to illustrate the differences between arguments and explanations in terms of which claims are certain and which are uncertain. In an argument. A rule of argumentation is that premises must always be more certain than conclusions. Although this passage mentions causes.Since John was in a terrible accident. Example Everyone thinks that Dewy broke the Ming Vase. Notice that all of these explanations contain indicator words. the main point is usually obviously true. In the case of an explanation. for you don't need to convince them of anything. This is an explanation because it identifies the cause of John's lack of a nose. even though they can contain indicator words. this is an argument. and what isn't so clear is why it is true. If they weren't. Arguments About Explanations You need to be careful not to jump to the conclusion that a passage is an explanation just because it mentions causes. Explanations do not contain premises or conclusions. then no argument is needed. the main point (the conclusion) is usually something that is not obviously true. Think about the purpose of an argument. it is an explanation. The passage tries to convince us that one of these explanations is correct and that the other is mistaken. What am I most willing to believe? Identify the main point of the passage. but I know it was the dog. and the purpose of the argument is to provide evidence that it is true. This shows why one cannot rely only on indicator words to identify conclusions and premises. but to prove what the correct explanation is. What is it about? If it assumes you already know or accept the main point and then offers reasons why it is true. I saw the dog skulking away with his tail between his legs right after I heard the vase break. More Certain Arguments The Other Points Explanations The Main Point Less Certain The Main Point The Other Points . its aim is not simply to explain why the vase broke. then they couldn't be used to support or justify conclusions. The claim about the dog's behaviour is used as evidence to support the veracity of the speaker's explanation.
Being charitable to the speaker means attributing the more plausible claim to the speaker. What makes more sense? This involves three things. Example Although there are several reasons why a child's school performance can deteriorate suddenly. Such transitions can be extremely difficult for children.Example There are several reasons why a child's school performance can deteriorate suddenly. Statistics show that 76% of children who suddenly do poorly at school come from families with unstable relationships. That is. the most common of these is because of a problem at home. They become preoccupied. such as the parents going through a divorce. We are probably willing to accept the claim that problems at home are a major contribution to poor performance at school. Example Mark is a miser. we are more willing to believe the statistic about children (that's the power of statistics) than we are to accept the more general claim about why children suddenly do poorly at school. . and we are willing to accept it without any convincing. we have an explanation. all of which has an adverse effect on their ability to concentrate. His family had very little money when he was growing up and his father made him work in the salt mines to supplement the family income. o Use The Principle of Charity We should interpret the speaker or author in as charitable a fashion as we can. In this case. The statistic serves as evidence for the main point. 2. Notice that that this argument also talks about causes. and easily distracted. Often it is because of a problem at home. such as the parents going through a divorce. withdrawn. but the purpose of the passage is to convince us that a particular explanation is the correct one and not merely to provide an explanation. This is an explanation of why many children suddenly do worse at school. This is an argument. given the choice between a weak argument and a reasonable explanation. Since that is the main point. which we might be unsure of before we learn that statistic. He was taught to save every penny and not to waste anything. and since the rest of the passage explains why the main point is true. treat the speaker's words as an explanation if the circumstances support this interpretation.
Example (You meet someone who never practices safe sex and say) Sex without a condom is very dangerous.While the speaker might intend this to be an argument to prove that Mark is a miser. This can be a matter of who makes up the intended audience (i. then it is an explanation. You don't accept the main point yet (that you can't play any DVDs on that player) because you intend to do just that since you don't know that it is broken. This is an explanation. determine what the audience is expected to know. In general. While this could be an argument for you to buy Sparkly Toothpaste. it would be a poor one. It's unplugged. You already know the DVD player doesn't work and I'm explaining why. Sexual contact can transmit o . If not. ³Context´ here refers to the circumstances in which the passage appears. It would be easier to argue that you should buy it if it were less expensive than other kinds toothpaste and if it gets your teeth cleaner than other brands of toothpaste. It's broken. Will they already be aware of or accept the main point? If so. This is an argument intended to provide you with evidence that trying to use the DVD player will just waste your time. Example (Said as you approach the DVD player) Don't waste your time. it is more plausibly an explanation for why it gets your teeth so clean. You can't play any movies on that player. then it is an argument. It is much more plausibly interpreted as an explanation for Mark's behaviour. what kind of people are they and what are they likely to know or believe?) and what else is happening when the claim is made. To prove that Mark is a miser it would be much more effective to point out that he's never paid for a round of drinks at the pub. that he only goes to the movies on Tuesdays.. You didn't break it. and so on.e. Example Sparkly Toothpaste contains tiny gnomes who work for hours after you have stopped brushing to clean your teeth continuously. o Focus on the context of the remark or passage. Example (Said as you try to play a DVD) Don't worry.
This is more plausibly interpreted as an explanation of why Leibniz requires God in his metaphysics than an argument that he does require God. This could be intended as an argument. cite positive reviews by reputable film critics. Example Abortion is immoral because it is illegal. the films of Pauley Shore are considered a superior art form.AIDS. One could more effectively argue that abortion is immoral by talking about the immorality of killing. etc. o Are there better arguments? That is. more direct and obvious way to argue for what seems to be the main point? Part of what it means to use the principle of charity is that you treat the speaker as though he or she is intelligent. but is more plausibly interpreted as an explanation for his popularity in France. o . human beings are windowless monads. Since they are likely already to accept the main point. Intelligent people use good arguments based on premises that are obviously related to the conclusion and are not contentious. this is better regarded as an explanation. is there another. You are trying to convince the other person that unprotected sex is dangerous. one would instead list off all of the awards his films have one at film festivals. Again. this could be intended as an argument that tries to show that Pauley Shore's films are worthy of artistic merit. etc. This is because a room full of professional philosophers will already know that God plays an important role in Leibniz' metaphysics. which were extremely popular among the French. Law and morality do not always coincide. The fact that something is illegal does not necessarily mean it is immoral. Example (Said to a room full of professional philosophers) God plays a central role in Leibniz' metaphysical system to account for the apparent relations between human minds since. To argue that Pauley Shore's films are worthy of artistic merit. This is an argument. but is more charitably interpreted as an explanation. Example In France. His work is similar to the early films of Jerry Lewis. in his view.
then knowing that God is in heaven and that all is well (if one could know that) might justify this claim. knowledge (or belief) about heaven is just another fact in the list and plays no justificatory role. Alternatively. Example Iggy Pop was one of the first popular Punk musicians in North America. They usually offer you new information. the speaker could be trying to describe what a life of faith is like. A description differs from an explanation since an explanation tells you why something is the way it is and a description simply tells you that things are a certain way. In this case. I can only say that the life of faith is a joyous one. Example I tell you that God is in his heaven and all is well. but provide no reasons for their truth and provide no reasons to believe that they are true. there is no such thing as a common human nature. since there are much more effective . This is a straightforward description. All they do is provide information. beyond being metaphysically free or self-determining beings. A description differs from an argument since an argument tries to convince you of something and a description does not. the context might make a difference as to whether it is an argument or a description. we would have an argument. However. The speaker is not trying to convince us of anything. If the speaker has been trying to convince us that the life of faith is happier than a life without faith.Descriptions Descriptions are neither arguments nor explanations. nor is he trying to explain anything about Iggy Pop. This is a Description. When I saw him on my 20th birthday. It simply describes what Sartre and Kierkegaard believed. What would the Principle of Charity suggest about how we ought to interpret this passage? This is better characterized as a description. since the other plausibly explains neither claim. in which case. They are lists of facts. In their view. the people in the front row continuously spat on him. This is not likely an explanation. Example Sartre and Kierkegaard believed that we define ourselves through our actions.
The number of ways that 1018 molecules can be arranged into six-sided crystals is astronomical²a great deal larger than the number of snowflakes that have ever fallen on earth. it seems as though the rest of the passage explains why this is so. But is the main point of the passage that no two snowflakes are identical. molecules attach themselves to it essentially at random. we have an argument. Hence. Why? Because most people already accept the claim that no two snowflakes are identical.ways to justify the claim that the life of faith is a joyous one. etc Example The odds against two snowflakes being identical are so great as to approach certainty. or is it something slightly different? The main point of the passage is that we can be certain that no two snowflakes are identical. one could speak of one's sense of moral accomplishment and satisfaction. This seems like an explanation. The rest of the passage provides support for this claim. one's sense of personal security. For instance. A snowflake consists of about 1018 water molecules. Given that. . As the snowflake gets larger.
If I say. While it can be true or false. ³Shut the door´ is not a proposition. In fact. ³It is raining outside´ is a proposition. complete thought. ³Who is tall?´ This is because I have not expressed a complete thought. Simple and Compound Propositions There are two kinds of propositions: Simple and compound. is also true or false. While ³I hate jazz´ also expresses someone's feelings toward jazz. we can't even imagine how we would test whether or not ³ouch´ were true. ³John is tall´ is an example of a simple proposition. Similarly. and it is either true that it is raining outside or it is false. It assets something about the world (a fact or state of affairs). it will be important to be able to identify premises and conclusions. ³John. ³I hate jazz´ is also a proposition and. and to break arguments down into their simplest components. ³Is tall. depending on the actual preferences of the speaker. ³Ouch!´ is not a proposition either.´ I don't make any sense.´ A proposition is a statement or assertion. It does not assert or describe a state of affairs. but tries to make someone else do something or change the world in some way. Simple Propositions A simple proposition contains 1 subject and 1 predicate. ³I hate jazz´ can be true or false. that ³Geoff shut the door. for instance. Its components are as follows: Subject: John Predicate:is tall Notice that in order to have a complete thought we require a subject and a predicate. This is simply an expression of someone's feelings. To reveal the logical structure of an argument we first need to be able to identify all the parts that make up the argument. y y A simple proposition expresses a single. These parts are called ³propositions.Propositions When we begin to analyse and standardize arguments. This claim is an imperative or a command. One of the defining features of a proposition is that any proposition must be either true or false. ³Ouch´ is neither true nor false. Sometimes one premise of an argument supports one part of an argument and another premise a different part. A compound proposition expresses more than one complete thought.´ the imperative ³Shut the door´ itself is neither true nor false. if I say. You will want to ask me.´ I don't appear to be making sense either (unless I'm trying to get .
in which case I'm not uttering a proposition). Any compound proposition must therefore be analyzed into simple propositions. or to have the same meaning. ³What about John? Compound Propositions A compound proposition expresses more than one complete thought because it contains more than one subject or predicate.´ ³I love you.John's attention. or both. ³I love you and you love me. This can be broken down or analyzed into 2 simple propositions: ³I love you´ AND ³You love me´ It is also important to note that the same proposition can be expressed in a variety of ways.´ is the same proposition as ³I love you and you love me. You would likely ask me.´ is an example of a compound proposition. Each alternative way of expressing the same proposition is said to be equivalent.´ is equivalent to ³Je t'aime. For example. . ³We are in love.´ Why break down compound propositions? When we standardize arguments we need to break the supporting premises into their simplest components so we can see if each part of the claim is supported or plausible.
1. Look for indicator words associated with conclusions. which premises support which claims.Standardizing Arguments Once you can recognize an argument there are some things you need to be able to do before you can evaluate it. Think of it this way. one is in a better position to evaluate the argument. The conclusion usually appears at the beginning or at the end of the passage. Doing this is helpful because once one can clearly see which premises support which conclusions. The conclusion is usually the main point of the passage. . We will employ the diagram method for our standardizations. unless you understand how someone's argument works. Similarly. 3. Put it at the top of your page in a box. you cannot offer a useful criticism of that argument. This involves the use of boxes and arrows. This is what is called ³standardizing´ an argument. To see this structure one must be able to identify the premises and conclusions and show how they are related to one another. each premise in its own box. That is. To evaluate an argument one requires an understanding of the logical structure of the argument. Identify the conclusion of the argument. If I build a mousetrap you cannot say whether it is a good or a bad mousetrap or offer ways to improve the design unless you have some understanding of how my mousetrap works. Identify the supporting premises by listing them below. 2. Here are a few hints to help you identify conclusions. with an arrow illustrating that the premise supports what is above it. The first step in standardizing an argument is to identify the conclusion.
Philosophy is one of the best subjects one can study at university because it teaches you how to think clearly.The Diagram Method Schematically. The rest of the passage is made up of the following proposition: ³Philosophy teaches you how to think critically. each lend independent .´ This is the main point of the passage and seems to be a claim the truth of which the speaker wishes to convince the reader. and since she is a born leader. This therefore serves as a premise in support of the conclusion. we arrive at a diagram that looks something like this: Let's try an example. she should be the captain of the team. that Pat was a professional soccer player and is a born leader. The conclusion is: ³Philosophy is one of the best subjects one can study at university. The standardization of this argument would look like this: Let's try another example. Since Pat was a professional soccer player. What is this passage trying to convince us about? The main point it wants to convince us about is that Pat should be the captain of the team. The other two claims.´ Notice the indicator word ³because´ (which is associated with premises) that precedes this proposition. This is therefore the conclusion. The place to start is by identifying the conclusion of the argument.
support to the conclusion and thus are intended to be separate premises. The standardization of the argument will look like this: .
This is the function of a subargument. If any of the main premises are questionable. When an argument contains a subargument. Let's take our argument about Pat. By adding this subargument we would need to amend the standardization above in the following way: . If I want to convince you that she should be the captain of the team and offer the reasons mentioned above. then it is a good idea to support them. For instance. of which subpremises 1 and 2 are the premises. The conclusion of the subargument is premise 1. the soccer player. I might say that when lost in the woods with her friends she took charge and kept everyone calm until the park rangers found them. an argument containing a subargument might look like this: Here everything represented inside the dotted line is a subargument. Schematically. To make my argument stronger I would provide a subargument the conclusion of which is that she is a born leader. An argument can frequently be made stronger by adding subpremises.Subarguments Subarguments are used to support one or more of the premises of an argument. it has a ³mini-argument´ within it to justify one or more of the premises used to support the main conclusion. it might not be obvious that she is a born leader.
Here we have three propositions: Jones took it Frank knows Jones did it Frank saw the whole thing on the surveillance tape When you are asked to standardize an argument. but so does the third proposition. Frank knows Jones did it because he saw the whole thing on the surveillance tape. Here you need to ask yourself whether the proposition about the surveillance tape makes the argument stronger by supporting the conclusion directly. Example Jones took it. sometimes it can be helpful to write each proposition down on a scrap piece of paper. If we are given reasons to believe that it is true that Frank knows Jones did it.Let's try a few more examples. The main point of the passage seems to be that Jones took it. that Jones took it. then that would make for a stronger argument than if we were just told that Frank knows . or by functioning as a subpremise supporting the claim about Frank's knowledge. How are the other propositions related to the conclusion and to each other? The proposition Frank knows Jones did it certainly seems to support the conclusion. This way you can try alternative standardizations until you find one that best represents the structure of the argument. so this proposition would be the conclusion.
Clearly this does not support the claim that Boston has many terrific shops or that there are many beautiful places to visit near Boston. Hence. Why are the other propositions arranged in this way? First.this without any support. not about places near Boston. let's look at the standardization and then discuss why it is an accurate way of representing the argument. This time. it looks as though the argument contains a very simple subargument and should be standardized like this: Now let's try a much more complicated example. It should be reasonably clear that the conclusion is the proposition Boston is a more interesting city than Toronto. Shops are not ordinarily considered to be terrific because of their architecture. . and the claim about Boston's architecture is a claim about Boston itself. let's look at the claim that Boston has more interesting architecture. Boston is a more interesting city than Toronto. It has more interesting architecture and there is more to do in the Boston area. This is the main point of the passage and appears at the beginning of the paragraph. There are many terrific shops and beautiful places to visit nearby.
First. and hence. the conclusion is about how interesting Boston is relative to Toronto. What about the rest of the argument? It seems pretty clear that having places to shop and beautiful places to visit nearby are things to do. Clearly. but is directly related to the conclusion.Could this premise be thought of as supporting the claim that there is more to do in the Boston area? This sounds plausible but is not the best way to standardize the argument for two reasons. . the claim that there is more to do in Boston does not support the claim that Boston has more interesting architecture. the fact that Boston is architecturally more interesting than Toronto does not necessarily support the claim that there is more to do in Boston. and saying that Boston is architecturally more interesting than Toronto gives this conclusion direct support. If one city offers more things to do than another. A city can be full of beautiful buildings. then it is probably the more interesting city. Second. yet there might be nothing to do in that city. are best thought of as supporting the claim that there is more to do in the Boston area.
Kinds of Premises We have already seen that there is more than one kind of premise. . Premises can be either convergent or linked. and subpremises are used in subarguments to support either premises or other subpremises. There is another difference between premises that concerns their logical relationship to the propositions they support. Premises support a conclusion directly. There are premises and subpremises.
it does not have to be true that Boston has more interesting architecture. So far. Consider the previous example. Each claim gives the conclusion independent support. The claim that there are more terrific shops in Boston than Toronto supports the claim that there is more to do in Boston than Toronto all by itself. in order for the claim that there is more to do in the Boston area to support the conclusion that Boston is a more interesting city than Toronto. By ³independently´ the idea is that a convergent premise supports its conclusion without requiring the truth of other premises. it does not need to be accompanied by the claim that there are many beautiful places to visit near Boston.Convergent Premises Convergent premises work independently to support the conclusion. all of our examples have involved convergent premises. Similarly. .
then I'll be a monkey's uncle. we represent linked premises by connecting them with a line or a bar. This means that if two premises are linked. these are linked premises. When we standardize an argument with linked premises. then I'll be a monkey's uncle. Hence. The claim that Jesse made the shot does not support the claim that I'm a monkey's uncle unless we are also told that if Jesse makes the shot. I'm a monkey's uncle! The conclusion of this argument appears at the end of the passage.Linked Premises Linked premises are interdependent and must work together to support the conclusion. then I'll be a monkey's uncle does not give any support to the conclusion (I'm a monkey's uncle) unless we are also told that Jesse made the shot. Neither premise supports the conclusion at all without the other. they must both be asserted to support the conclusion. such an argument will look like this: Example If Jesse makes that shot. . The reason they are linked is because neither one gives the conclusion any support unless the other is asserted as well. Jesse made the shot. It is supported by the other two propositions that appear as linked premises. The claim that if Jesse makes the shot. The same is true of the other premise. Schematically.
.Let's look at another example. We don't have much cash because we don't get paid until next week. Example Either we go to the movie or we go out for dinner. so we should go to the movie. We can't afford to go to dinner.
They point out that Scott has already made more films than Kubric. The argument seems to be that Scott is a better director than Kubric because Scott has made more films than Kubric and experience is the key to being a good director. Notice the indicator word ³but´. it is difficult to evaluate the counterargument. To help you identify counterarguments. Now let's standardize this argument: Notice that the two premises are linked. Counterarguments have the goal of denying the conclusion of the original argument. Example Some argue that Ridley Scott is a better Director than Stanley Kubric. standardize the counterargument below the argument. Otherwise. But experience does not always make one a good director. Before we go any further we need to consider the purpose of the . however. First. It is very important to standardize it properly.Counterarguments A counterargument is an argument that responds to another argument. Once you have done this. all of which were awful. identify the argument this passage is responding to. and that experience is the key to being a good director. Now. on the other hand When standardizing a counterargument. Ed Wood made many films. one should first identify and standardize the original argument it is responding to. Unless both premises are asserted together neither one supports the conclusion. either by offering new premises in support of a different conclusion. let's identify the counterargument. This introduces the counterargument: But experience does not always make one a good director. look for the following indicator words: but. all of which were awful. or by showing that the conclusion of the original argument does not follow from the premises offered to support it. Ed Wood made many films. by undermining the premises used to support the conclusion.
Kubric is a better director than Scott? In this case. I see the merit in raising taxes next year. remember that you should do so cautiously. The standardization of the counterargument should look like this: Notice here that the premises are all linked rather than convergent. the aim of the speaker is only to show that the conclusion of the original argument does not follow from the premises offered. Argument . Ed Wood has a lot of experience as a director. the reason for this is that the linked premises depend on each other.counterargument. the claim that Ed Wood had a lot of experience as a director does not lend any support to the claim that experience does not necessarily make one a good director. In fact. experience does not always make one a good director. but all of his films were awful. This does not mean that the conclusion is false. Why is the conclusion this rather than say. not go up. we pay the highest amount in taxes of any G7 nation. and this will be true of many counterarguments. Without also saying that all of Ed Wood's films were awful. The conclusion of the counterargument must be a cautious denial of this claim: Ridley Scott is not necessarily a better director than Kubric. Once again. When you reconstruct counterarguments you will often need to formulate and add the conclusion of the counterargument yourself. In light of all this. What was the conclusion of the original argument? It was this: Ridley Scott is a better Director than Stanley Kubric. Don't make the conclusion stronger than it needs to be or stronger than the premises warrant. Example Sure. Although Scott has made more films than Kubric. Ridley Scott is not a better director than Kubric or. When you do. it will fund some needed social programs. It might still be true that Scott is a better director than Kubric. the counterargument is something like this: Ridley Scott is not necessarily a better director than Kubric. Recall that we saw above that the aim of any counterargument is to deny the conclusion of the argument to which it is responding. As you say. but the argument has not given us good reason to believe this is true. but we already pay too much tax in Canada. Taxes should come down.
and a fetus does not become a person until the third trimester. it is true that. Counterconsiderations are not used as premises to support an opposing argument. It is like saying. .Counterconsiderations Counterconsiderations are claims or propositions that count against the conclusion. Identifying counterconsiderations in one's own argument is like giving a nod to the opposing side or saying the opposition has a point. but without surrendering what is important in one's own views. The idea of something can have social origins and yet exist in reality as well. but these problems are not serious enough to undermine my conclusion. Example Although Durkheim provided convincing arguments to show that the concept of God emerged as an inevitable mechanism of social control. They merely serve as an acknowledgement that there exist points the author is aware of that tend to detract from or weaken the author's conclusion. these arguments do not prove that God does not exist. Example Despite the fact that the fetus is genetically human. we list them underneath the standardization of the argument. These differ from counterarguments in the following way. on the other hand. abortion early on in a pregnancy is not equivalent to murder. What is important is the status of the fetus as a moral being or a person. despite When we standardize an argument with counterconsiderations. Durkheim merely identifies possible origins of the concept of God.´ There are certain indicator words that tend to be associated with counterconsiderations and can help you identify them: although. ³I am aware of certain problems with this argument.
What about your diet? Here the conclusion is that you shouldn't eat that Whopper. you shouldn't eat that Whopper. however. . The speaker has simply failed to make all the premises (or conclusions) explicit. Now that the premises have been made explicit we can standardize the argument. There must be more to this argument. This can happen under the following conditions: 1. or both. The speaker asks a rhetorical question (one that anticipates a particular answer).Missing Premises and Conclusions Often arguments have missing premises. So we can rephrase the argument more explicitly as follows: Since you are on a diet and each Whopper contains 42 grams of fat. are you? It's a formal function. 2. The question about the diet suggests that the person being addressed is on a diet. Example You shouldn't eat that Whopper. You're not going to wear that outfit tonight. It seems there is also a missing premise about Whoppers being the wrong sort of thing to eat when on a diet. Now let's look at an example that is missing other elements. Each Whopper contains 42 grams of fat (or something similar) would be a suitable premise to motivate the conclusion. so one of the premises is something like: You are on a diet. conclusions. The premises used to support this conclusion are implied but have not been made explicit.
We can figure out what it is from the question ³You're not going to wear that outfit tonight. are you?´ The expected answer when someone asks a question like that is ³No.´ So the conclusion of the argument must be You shouldn't wear that outfit tonight. That outfit is inappropriate for a formal occasion is a good candidate for this role. so you shouldn't wear that outfit tonight. Example It is Sharon's birthday tomorrow. gives no support to the conclusion. Often. The fact that the event in question is a formal occasion. by itself. and is clearly implied by the question that starts off the argument. One thing we will want to know to evaluate this argument is whether or not there is a special relationship between Bob and Sharon. then this should be used as a further premise to support the conclusion. in expanded form. Hence. If the speaker tells us that Bob and Sharon are married. is this: It is a formal occasion tonight and that outfit is inappropriate.In this example the first thing you should notice is that the conclusion is missing. when the speaker fails to make all of the premises explicit. there must be an additional premise that is also implied and which needs to be made explicit. . Bob should buy her a present. So the argument. we can ask the speaker for more details and he or she can then provide us with the missing premises or conclusion. Therefore.
Strike a balance between these two guidelines. The added premises must help make the argument as strong as possible. In such cases we must fill in the missing premises ourselves. This is clearly supported by the following premise: High crime rates are caused by the widespread use of probation and suspended sentences. Example High crime rates are caused by the widespread use of probation and suspended sentences. On occasions like this we must use the principle of charity. The conclusion of the argument is: We should amend the law to provide for mandatory prison sentences for all crimes. we should amend the Criminal Law to provide for mandatory prison sentences for all crimes. Which of these two premises does the principle of charity suggest we should adopt? . 1. 2.Other times we can't ask the speaker to give us more information (perhaps you are reading an article). Therefore. 2. We should not attribute to the speaker claims that are too strong to be plausible. A policy of mandatory prison sentences for all crimes will lead to a reduction in crime rates. 3. What are some additional premises that are implied but have not been made explicit in this passage? Here are two possibilities: 1. A policy of mandatory prison sentences for all crimes is likely to lead to a reduction in crime rates.
(2) states that a certain result is likely. The reason (1) is implausible is that it claims that a certain policy will have definite results. Since one can't predict the future. but offers no guarantee about what will happen. claims about what will happen are more plausible if they are qualified to say what will probably happen.(2) because (1) is too strong to be plausible whereas (2) will support the conclusion but is less contentious (but can still be questioned). .
(1) is implausibly strong. we ought to adopt (2) as the missing premise. the conclusion cannot follow. if they were brought to our attention. Philosophers are always attentive people. Here are two possibilities: 1. Example Philosophers make the best lovers because being attentive to one's partner is essential to being a good lover. According to the principle of charity. These differ from the examples we have looked at so far because these assumptions are not implied claims that the speaker meant to identify but forgot. Assumptions or presuppositions are often a problem because they serve as premises in an argument without the speaker's awareness and are usually contentious claims. To disprove it all one needs to do is find one instance of an inattentive philosopher (not very hard to do. These are claims that motivate the speaker's argument without the speaker's awareness. Without that premise. Philosophers tend to be attentive people. in my opinion) to render the argument ineffective. . claims that.Assumptions and Presuppositions Assumptions and presuppositions are premises that are not stated but are assumed by the speaker. we would likely reject. What assumption is being made here? What are the possible missing premises? The claim must be something to the effect that philosophers are attentive people. 2.
Things that are faithful is another class that may include all dogs. A category is like a heading under which objects can be collected or subsumed. These are just a few of the many good books on logic you can find in the library. . Categorical arguments are ones that are based on relations of class membership. Another way of talking about categories is in terms of classes. Hence. For example. and Graham Solomon. Bell. Think of the word ³category´. 2001) John L. 2001) A class is a group of objects that share a particular characteristic. things that smell. 1997) Kent Wilson. 1997) Ian Hacking. 1977) John Nolt. and many other classes. Logics (Wadsworth. Logical Options: An Introduction to Classical and Alternative Logics (Broadview. a categorical syllogism is a special kind of argument. Hamsters. David DeVidi. or the study of how premises support conclusions in arguments. video games. is a larger class of objects that includes the entire class of dogs within it as well as the class Cats. my dog is a member of the class of pets.Categorical Logic 1 What is Categorical Logic? Logic is the science of inference. and so on. A class of objects is a group of things that share a particular property or characteristic. Wilfrid Hodges. Things with hair. For instance. things that eat. Included in the class of toys are things like tops. An Introduction to Probability and Inductive Logic (Cambridge. but not cats or hamsters. Categorical Logic is a branch of logic that studies the categorical syllogism. Any one thing can be a member of many different classes. Syllogistic logic is only a small part of formal logic. toy is a category. Humans. regardless of what kind of dogs they are. Logic (Penguin. model airplanes. The word ³syllogism´ means ³argument´. some humans. If you would like to explore more of what formal logic can do you might like to look at some of the following books. and so on. of things with hair. Dogs is a class of objects that contains all dogs. The Essentials of Logic (Research and Education Associates.
Hence. A Subject Term The subject term is what kind of thing the statement is about. 3. This can be any of the words ³is´. then. Subject term:rodents . Hence. Example All philosophers are attractive This says something about the relationship between the members of two classes: philosophers and things that are attractive. A Predicate Term This is what is being said about the Subject Term. They always contain the following four elements: 1.Categorical Statements The basic element in categorical logic is the categorical statement. Above we are told something about members of a class of objects. Let's look at a few examples. 2. 4. A Copula The copula connects the Subject Term and the Predicate Term. Four components of categorical statements All Categorical Statements have a certain form. How many members of this class are we being told something about? All of them. are a part of the class things that are attractive. The class is philosophers. In particular. is ³attractive´. ³all´ is the scope word. A categorical statement is an assertion in which one identifies a relationship between items in terms of whether or not they are members of certain groups or classes of objects. The predicate term. ³are not´. the claim says that all of the members of the class philosophers. A Scope Word The scope word tells us how many members of the class of the subject term we are talking about. In the above example the copula is ³are´. In the above example the statement is saying something about philosophers. ³are´. ³is not´. Example Some rodents are good pets. the subject term is ³philosophers´. What is being said about philosophers in the above statement? We are being told that philosophers are attractive.
that none of them belong to the class of ³things that are difficult to operate´. Negative Categorical Statement A negative categorical statement is one that says some or all of the members of the Subject Class do not belong to the Predicate Class. The categorical statement is usually affirmative if the copula is any of the following: is. Affirmative Categorical Statement An affirmative categorical statement is a positive statement that says that some or all of the members of the Subject Class belong to the Predicate Class. This categorical statement tells us something positive about all of the furniture at Ikea.Predicate term: things that make good pets Scope word:some Copula: are Affirmations and Negations All Categorical Statements are either Affirmative or Negative. are not. This tells us something negative about the subject class ³scanners´. Example No scanners are difficult to operate. Sometimes you can tell from the copula whether a categorical statement is affirmative or negative. The categorical statement is usually negative if the copula is any of the following: is not. Example All furniture at Ikea is made of particleboard. . are. that it is made of particleboard. You can't always rely on the copula to determine whether a categorical statement is affirmative or negative.
The Scope Word determines whether the statement is universal or particular. first see if it starts with the scope word ³no´. This claim is a particular categorical statement because it only tells us something about some members of the subject class. Below. dogs. Universal and Particular Positive and negative categorical statements are always either Universal or Particular. A categorical statement is universal if the scope word is either ³all´ or ³no´. Example Some dogs are philosophers. 3. A categorical statement is particular if the scope word is ³some´. 2. where S stands for any subject class and P stands for any predicate class. ³dogs´. This is universal because it tells us about all members of the subject class. If a categorical statement tells us something about all members of a class. Here the copula is ³are´ but the statement is negative because of the scope word ³no´. 1. affirmative or negative. When we combine the fact that categorical statements can be universal or particular. Example All dogs are philosophers. If a categorical statement tells us something about only some members of a class.Example No dogs are philosophers. Universal Affirmation: All S are P Universal Negation: No S are P Particular Affirmation: Some S are P Particular Negation: Some S are not P Each of these forms is given a name from a vowel in the Latin words for . 4. then the statement is particular. we end up with four possible kinds of Categorical Statements. then the statement is universal. To tell whether a categorical statement is affirmative or negative. then check the copula. the schematized forms of each are provided.
³I affirm´ (affirmo) and ³I deny´ (nego). AFFIRMO Affirmative NEGO Negative PARTICULAR I : SOME S ARE A : ALL S IS P P O : SOME S ARE E : NO S ARE P NOT P UNIVERSAL .
. No person with a face like that is a thing that is a killer. Example Nobody with a face like that is a killer. what their components are. Example Several children have colic. Some cats are things that have fleas. Sometimes we also need to change the subject term in order to translate a categorical statement into standard form. All pubs in Ireland are things that serve Guiness. Usually this takes the form of ³things that«´ Example All pubs in Ireland serve Guiness. All things that are poison are things that will make you sick. they are not expressed in standard categorical form. Example All banana peels are slippery. In order to recognize what kinds of statements they are.Distinguishing Categorical Statements Often. All banana peels are things that are slippery. Example Some cats have fleas. We also often have to change the verb in the sentence into a copula or else add a copula to the existing sentence. it is useful to be able to translate statements into standard categorical form. and how to deal with them. when you encounter categorical statements. We often have to change the predicate statement into a class or group. Example All things that are poison will make you sick.
will always be a universal claim. Subject and predicate terms are said to be either distributed or undistributed.Some children are things that have colic. Learning to recognize when a term is distributed or undistributed is very important for being able to tell whether or not a categorical syllogism is valid. that individual constitutes an entire class of its own. . All people who are the Frenchman are things that are snotty. Example The Frenchman is snotty. Why is this example translated as a universal categorical statement? It is a rule that whenever a statement is about one particular individual. Example: The French are snotty. then. All people who are French are things that are snotty. Any categorical statement about one specific individual.
Example No collection agencies are friendly. In this case the predicate class things that are fingerless is distributed because we have learned that the entire class of things that are fingerless is excluded from the class of pianists. The reason we do learn something about the entire predicate class is this: If we needed to find out whether or not some birds are not scavengers we would need to examine the entire class of scavengers and see what is . Example Some birds are not scavengers. Subject Terms are distributed in Universal Affirmations and Negations (A Statements and E Statements). or that all members of the class collection agencies are excluded from the class of things that are friendly. Here we learn something about the entire class of collection agencies: that no members of that class belong to the class of things that are friendly. It is often very difficult to understand why predicate terms are distributed in particular negations. What is it that we learn about the whole class of things that are scavengers? This is not obvious. Predicate terms are distributed in Negations (E Statements and O Statements). Here the subject term. ³mosquitoes´ is distributed because we are learning something about the whole class of mosquitoes: that they are pests. Example All mosquitoes are pests.Distributed Terms A subject term is distributed when the categorical statement tells us something about all of the members of the subject class. A predicate term is distributed when the statement tells us something about all members of the predicate class or about the whole class. Example No pianists are fingerless.
. we learn something about the whole class. Since we have had to look at the entire class.included and what isn't included.
Again. In this example we learn only about some members of the subject class magazines: that they belong to the class of things that are naughty. Subject terms are undistributed in particular affirmations (I statements) and particular negations (O statements).Undistributed Terms A subject term is undistributed when the categorical statement only tells us something about some of the members of the subject class. Example Some magazines are naughty. Example All penguins are cute. Since we are not learning about the whole class.Predicate terms are distributed in all Negations and undistributed in all Affirmations. Example Some fish are big. Example Some movies are not for children. in this case we are being told something about some of the members of the class movies. the subject term is undistributed. An easy way to remember rules of distribution is that subject terms are distributed in Universal Statements and undistributed in Particular Statements. A predicate term is undistributed when it tells us only about some members of the predicate class. If you see a claim and . The predicate term is undistributed because this tells us only about some members of the predicate class things that are big: that some big things are fish. Let's practice dealing with categorical statements. Predicate terms are undistributed in Affirmations (A Statements and I Statements). The predicate term is undistributed because this tells us only about some members of the class things that are cute: that some cute things are penguins.
What is the predicate term? Things that are ringing. translate it into standard categorical form first. First. What is the subject term? All things that are the phone (this is about a particular individual) Is it distributed or undistributed? The subject term is distributed because the scope word is ³all´. but the claim is not in standard form. and predicate terms are only distributed in negations (E and O statements).need to know which terms are distributed and undistributed. Is it distributed or undistributed? The predicate term is undistributed because the categorical statement is an affirmation. put this into standard form: All things that are the phone are things that are ringing. Example The phone is ringing. . This is a universal claim.
The Square of Opposition . These are possible because there are fixed logical relations between different categorical claims. Many of these relations are captured in what is called the ³square of opposition´.Categorical Logic 2 Drawing Inferences Inference is the process of moving from (possibly provisional) acceptance of some propositions to the acceptance of others. There are two kinds of inferences we need to clarify for talking about categorical arguments: immediate inferences and mediate inferences. Immediate Inferences Immediate inferences are ones that can be made on the basis of a single categorical statement without any additional premises.
The square of opposition gives us a schematic picture of these logical relationships. . Let's look at each of these in more detail.
Suppose that I said. So the contradictory would be: Some people are things that love me (some S are P). Counterexamples are represented in the square of opposition by contradictories. and show that the contradictory is true. What you are doing in this case is using a counterexample by appealing to the truth of the contradictory of my original statement. Two claims are contradictories if they can't both be true and they can't both be false. The logical relation that holds between contradictories is specified in terms of relations of truth and falsity.E. put the claim into standard categorical form: No person is a thing that loves me. such as my parents and close friends. how would you achieve that? You would probably argue with me by pointing out that there are. First. If you could establish this. If you could show that this is true. identify its contradictory. Let's look at this more closely and technically. . A counterexample is a case that proves an assertion false. if we know that one of them is true. then there can be no doubt that the other is false. The subject class is people and the predicate class is things that love me. If you wanted to show that what I said is wrong.O). ³Nobody loves me´. There is a contradictory for every kind of categorical statement (A.I. Next. This is a powerful tool because it can be used to do more than prove that a claim is questionable or without support. you will have succeeded in proving my original claim false. Example Nobody loves me The easiest way to show I am wrong is to find it out what the contradictory of this claim is. Since contradictories cannot both be true and cannot both be false. in fact.Contradictories One of the most powerful tools in argumentation is the counterexample. This would be an I statement. people that love me. This is a universal negation (E statement). It can show that the claim is false. you will succeed in proving what I said to be untrue.
What would be the contradictory? Since All cartoons are funny is an A statement. Suppose we know this is false. So its contradictory will be an I statement. then we know that its contradictory must be false. What can we conclude is true? Its contradictory: All chickens are things that make good pets (All S are P). The above claim is an E statement. then what can we say must be true? It would be the contradictory of this claim. If this is false.Example All cartoons are funny (All S are P). . Example Some chickens are not things that make good pets (Some S are not P). If this is true. Example No dog hair makes a good paintbrush. we know that the following claim is true: Some dog hair is a thing that makes a good paintbrush (Some S are P). the contradictory must be an O statement: Some cartoons are not funny (Some S are not P). Hence.
then we know that its contrary must be false. Both of these claims might be false. . so we cannot draw an inference. If you know this. its contrary could be either true or false. This means that the only time you can draw an inference using contraries is if you know that an A or an E statement is true. If we know that it is false that all cartoons are funny. or it could be because some philosophers are freaks. if it is false that all philosophers are freaks. Its contrary would be an E statement since all cartoons are funny is an A statement. then it is possible for its contrary to be either true or false. then you know its contrary is false.Contraries The second set of fixed logical relations captured by the square of opposition is contraries. This relationship can hold only between universal affirmations and universal negations (A and E statements). This would be so if it is the case that some cartoons are funny. If you know that this is false. If you know that an A or an E statement is false. or if some cartoons are not funny (if we have an I or an O statement). so you cannot actually draw an inference in this case. Contraries are claims that cannot both be true but can both be false. this could be because no philosophers are freaks. Its contrary would be: No philosophers are freaks. we cannot conclude from this that no cartoons are funny. Example All philosophers are freaks. Hence we know it is false that no cartoons are funny. Example All cartoons are funny. Knowing the original claim is false does not tell us which of these possibilities is true. If we know that this claim is true. Clearly.
Other kinds of immediate inferences that are possible with categorical statements are called ³conversion´. ³obversion´. The subcontrary to this is: Some philosophers are not freaks. However. Subcontraries cannot both be false but can both be true. It could be either true or false. This relationship holds only between particular categorical claims (I and O statements). However. we cannot conclude that its subcontrary is false. if we know an I statement is true. This is because if it is true that some philosophers are not freaks it might be the case that no philosophers are freaks. These are different categorical statements that are equivalent. This means that if we know an I statement is false. and ³contraposition´. its subcontrary must be true. then it must be true that some philosophers are not freaks.Subcontraries The third set of logical relations in the square of opposition is subcontraries. . If we know it is false that some philosophers are freaks. we can't conclude from the truth of the claim that some philosophers are freaks that it is true that some philosophers are not freaks. Example Some philosophers are freaks.
then its converse is also false. Notice that truth is always preserved in conversion. The converse is: No mammals are fish. then the truth-value of the claim must remain constant. truth is not necessarily preserved. If you are saying something equivalent by stating the converse. If your original claim is true. Example No things with feathers are humans. This is what we should expect if we are making equivalent statements. Example Some games are fun. Example Converse No P are S . This is why conversion is invalid with A and O statements. This is only possible in Particular Affirmations (I-Statements) and Universal Negations (E-Statements). Example Some potatoes are things with eyes. If the original claim is false. The converse is: Some things with eyes are potatoes. The converse is: Some things that are fun are games.Conversion In conversion we switch the subject and predicate terms in a categorical statement. The converse is: No humans are things with feathers. then its converse is also true. Some S are Some P are Converse P S No S are P Example No fish are mammals. Notice that if you try conversion with other kinds of categorical statements. Conversion is a matter of saying something equivalent in a slightly different way.
In this case the converse does not state something equivalent to the original statement. The original claim is true but the converse is obviously false since cows and cats and plenty of other animals have four legs aside from dogs. . you would end up with: All things with four legs are dogs.All dogs are things with four legs. which is an A statement. If you tried conversion with this claim.
Example Some animals are appetizing. The complement of a class is made up of all things that do not fall within the identified class.Obversion In obversion we change the statement to its opposite (affirmative or negative) and replace the predicate term with its complement. For instance.I. Sometimes the compliment class reads awkwardly. This includes everything that is not a philosopher. So one might write: Some animals are not unappetizing. Obverse: No frogs are non-reptiles. Example Obverse No S are non-P Obverse All S are non-P Obverse Some S are not non-P Obverse Some S are non-P . Obverse: All Pygmies are non-tall. Schematically we represent the compliment of a class P by adding the prefix ³non´ to end up with non-P Obversion can take the following forms: All S are P No S are P Some S are P Some S are not P Example All frogs are reptiles. Obverse: Some animals are not non-appetizing.E. Example No Pygmies are tall. as it does above. Either form is correct. This is valid for all forms of categorical statement (A. In those cases it is permissible to represent the compliment class using the prefix ³un´ instead. the complement of the class philosophers is non-philosophers.O).
Obverse: Some boxer shorts are uncomfortable (or non-comfortable).Some boxer shorts are not comfortable. the two ³nons´ cancel each other out. No feathered animals are human. . When this happens. Example All feathered animals are non-human. Obverse: Clue: The complement of non-humans is non-non-humans.
Contrapositive: All non-brilliant people are non-logic students. This is permissible only with Universal Affirmations and Particular Negations (A-Statements and OStatements. Contrapositive: All non-wet things are non-rain.) All S are P Some S are not P Example All logic students are brilliant.Contraposition In contraposition what we do is switch the subject and predicate terms and replace each with its complement. What it asserts is that there isn't anything that doesn't like dogs that aren't cats. contraposition is invalid for anything other than A and O statements. Let's see what happens when we try contraposition with an E statement. Although the original E statement was true. Since truth is not necessarily preserved (though it might happen to be sometimes). Example No cats are things that like dogs. Contrapositive:No non-things that like dogs are non-cats. Example Some Canadians are not hockey players. Contrapositive All non-P are non-S Some non-P are not Contrapositive non-S . Example All rain is wet. its Contrapositive is false. This is extremely awkward. Contrapositive: Some non-hockey players are not non-Canadians. There are all kinds of things (including some people) that don't like dogs but that aren't cats. Notice again that when these inferences are valid (in A and O statements) truth is preserved.
A minor term: the subject of the conclusion. the conclusion must be true. A major term: the predicate of the conclusion. It is important to recognize that an argument can be valid but unsound. Therefore. All dogs are cute. We will limit our examination to categorical arguments with two premises.Mediate Inferences Mediate inferences are ones where we need additional information (i.e. It is possible for the premises to be true but for the conclusion to be false. Validity An argument is valid if it has proper logical form. . 3. Every categorical argument contains at least two premises and a conclusion. some cute things have fleas. Mediate inferences occur in categorical arguments (syllogisms). more than one non-equivalent categorical statement) to draw a conclusion.. 2. An argument is invalid if it lacks proper logical form. Soundness An argument is sound if the premises are true and is unsound if any of its premises are false. Every categorical argument also contains the following three elements: 1. sound or unsound. This means that if the premises are true. Major term: having fleas Minor term: cute things Middle term: dogs Arguments of this form are said to be valid or invalid. Example Some dogs have fleas. A middle term: a term that appears in both of the premises but not in the conclusion.
It is not true that all men are potatoes. Socrates is a potato. it would have to be true that Socrates is a potato. This argument is valid. If the premises were true.Example All men are potatoes Socrates is a man Therefore. However. it is unsound because the first premise is false. .
Subject term = Socrates Is the subject term distributed in at least one of the premises? Yes. Predicate terms are undistributed in A statements. 2. In premise 2. it is a universal statement. 3. In premise 1. it must be an A statement. All men are potatoes is an A statement (universal affirmation) and subject terms are distributed in A statements. Do the number of negative terms in the conclusion equal the number of . It is distributed since subject terms are always distributed in A statements. The subject term is Socrates. if a categorical statement is about a particular individual. In the conclusion the predicate term is potato. 1. The number of negative claims must be the same in the premises and conclusion. Socrates is a potato First. Example All men are potatoes Socrates is a man Therefore. This is where the ability to discern whether or not subject and predicate terms are distributed becomes important. Is a term distributed in the conclusion? The conclusion is an A statement (remember. If a term is distributed in the conclusion. Since the conclusion is an affirmation. (Socrates is a man) the term is distributed (for the same reason above). Middle Term = men Is it distributed in at least one premise? Yes. Now we can move on to rule three. At least one premise must distribute the middle term. identify the middle term. it must also be distributed in at least one of the premises.Testing Validity There are three rules for evaluating the validity of categorical syllogisms.
identify the middle term. Example All men are mortal Socrates is smart Therefore. The conclusion of the . The argument therefore fails the third test and is invalid. There aren't any. Socrates is mortal First. Rule 2 Is there a term that is distributed in the conclusion? No. In fact. The conclusion has none and the premises have two.negative terms in the premises? Yes. some alligators are delicious. Both premises are negations and predicate terms are always distributed in negations. Rule 1 Middle term = things that make good wallets Is it distributed in at least one premise? Yes. The conclusion is an I statement (particular affirmation). If the premises were true. it is distributed in both premises. Nothing that makes a good wallet is delicious. Example Some alligators do not make good wallets. No terms are distributed in I statements. This argument fails to satisfy the first test of validity and is therefore invalid. The argument is therefore valid. We can therefore move on to rule 3. the conclusion would have to be true. Therefore. There is no middle term. Let's try a few more examples. Rule 3 Is there the same number of negative statements in the premises as in the conclusion? No.
The argument passes the second test. Rule 1 The Middle Term is: cows Is it distributed in at least one premise? Yes. If the premises are all I statements. 2. All cows are herbivores is an A statement. The term that is distributed in the conclusion is things that are black at night. Let's try a couple more examples. rendering the argument invalid. This is because if the premises are I statements no terms are distributed in them. so the term is distributed there as well.argument does not necessarily follow. If the argument contains negative premises and a positive conclusion. The first premise is also an O statement. the argument cannot pass the third test. It is possible for the premises to be true but for the conclusion to be false. Subject terms are not distributed in O statements but predicate terms are. Example Some cows are not black at night. 1. meaning that the middle term cannot be distributed. All cows are herbivores. If either of these is true. Therefore. In premise 2. Rule 2 Is a term distributed in the conclusion? The conclusion is an O statement (a particular negation). Here's a useful tip: There are two conditions under which it is really easy to see that a categorical argument is invalid. Now we have to see if this term is distributed in at least one of the premises. Cows is the subject term and the subject term is always distributed in A statements. or positive premises and a negative conclusion. The only place this appears in the premises is as the predicate term of the first premise. some herbivores are not black at night. .
All people with brains are people with a good sense of humour. Now. rewrite the argument with the first premise restated as it is above: Some Friends fans are people with brains. All people with brains are people with a good sense of humor. In this case we want to use the obverse of premise 1 to make the argument easier to evaluate.Rule 3 Are there the same number of negative claims in the conclusion as there are in the premises? Yes. Here it is more difficult to identify the middle term. Therefore. Example Some Friends fans are non-brainless people. It is the subject term in the second premise. The obverse of affirmations (A or I statements) are positive statements even though they contain words we associate with negation. The argument is therefore valid. Subject terms are distributed in A statements. Therefore. Be careful when an argument employs obverse statements. some Friends fans are people with a good sense of humour. which is an A statement. Some Friends fans are non-brainless people is equivalent to the obverse: Some Friends fans are people with brains. None of its terms is distributed. The conclusion is an I statement. We . some Friends fans are people with a good sense of humor. Sometimes following the third rule can be tricky. Rule 1 Middle term = people with brains Is it distributed in at least one premise? Yes. There is one in the conclusion and one in the premises. Rule 2 Is a term distributed in the conclusion? No.
Rule 3 Are there the same number of negative statements in the conclusion as in the premises? Yes. not only would we have had a difficult time identifying the middle term. but we would have had trouble with the third test of validity because it looks like a negative claim even though it is not. . There are none in the conclusion and none in the premises. Notice that if we had left the first premise the way it was. The argument is therefore valid.can therefore jump to rule 3.
and enable you to ensure that your own arguments are good ones.Necessary and Sufficient Conditions Many arguments you are likely to encounter can be analysed. . understood. Learning to identify necessary and sufficient conditions is therefore a very powerful tool since it will enable you to recognise bad arguments quickly. A conditional argument contains at least one premise that is what is called a ³conditional statement´. The most common type of argument that employs necessary and sufficient conditions is the conditional argument. and evaluated in terms of what are called ³necessary´ and ³sufficient conditions´.
namely. on the condition that I win the lottery. We are also saying that my retiring to the Bahamas is a necessary consequence of my winning the lottery. This claim can be true even if I never do win the lottery. that follows the word ³then´ (I will retire to the Bahamas) is called the consequent (meaning ³comes after´). something else will happen.Conditional Statements A conditional statement is one in which it is claimed that something is or will be the case provided that some other situation obtains. . This asserts that. We express this by saying that my winning the lottery is sufficient for my retiring to the Bahamas. Example If I win the lottery. something else were to happen. I will retire to the Bahamas. All that matters is that if the first thing were to happen (I win the lottery) we know for sure that the second thing will happen (I'll retire to the Bahamas). and the second part. or that my retiring to the Bahamas is necessary for my winning the lottery. The part of the conditional claim that follows the word ³if´ (I win the lottery) is called the antecedent (meaning ³comes before´). I am saying that there is a special logical relationship between these two propositions: I win the lottery I will retire to the Bahamas. then I will retire to the Bahamas. The nature of this logical relationship is expressed in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions. hypothetically. Most conditional statements take the following form: If x then y where x and y each stand for particular propositions. then I will retire to the Bahamas. When I say that if I win the lottery. What we are saying in the conditional claim is that my winning the lottery is enough to ensure that I will retire to the Bahamas. These are also sometimes called hypothetical statements because they say what would happen if.
can we draw the conclusion that he is a bachelor? No. then it is a necessary consequence that he is male (we know this for sure). it is enough (i. That is. if Dan is a bachelor. Since there can be no doubt about this. In other words. then. Let's look at a different example to illustrate these concepts. once true. then if X is not true. Y is not true. What is the relationship between being unmarried and being a bachelor? Is being unmarried sufficient for being a bachelor? No. We've already seen that being male. while it is true that in order to be a bachelor you must be male. If X is sufficient for Y. If we know that something is a bachelor. Necessary Conditions A necessary condition is a state of affairs that must be true in order for something else to be true but is not enough to make something else true. Y is true. then we also know with absolute certainty that it is a male. What else can we say about Allan with absolute certainty? We know that Allan must be male and we also know that he must be unmarried. Let's say we know that Allan is a bachelor. is enough for something else to be true. although necessary for being a bachelor. is male. We would say. for instance. this does not give us an absolute guarantee that he is a bachelor because he might be married. But if all we know about Dan is that he is male. being male isn't enough for being a bachelor. is not sufficient for being a bachelor. then. is not sufficient for being a bachelor. sufficient) to know that something is a bachelor to know that it is also male. but is not sufficient for being a bachelor.We can define necessary and sufficient conditions as follows: Sufficient Conditions A sufficient condition is a state of affairs that. Keitha is unmarried but isn't a .. then if X is true. being a bachelor is sufficient for being male and is sufficient for being unmarried. Just because Tom. Example Being a bachelor is a sufficient condition for being male. that being male is necessary for being a bachelor. If we know that someone is male. So. If X is necessary for Y. we don't know whether or not he is a bachelor. Being male.e.
being male is necessary for being a bachelor. Hence. AND John's being unmarried is necessary for John's being a bachelor. AND John's being male is necessary for John's being a bachelor. When do we know for sure that someone is a bachelor? Only when we know that person is both male and unmarried. If John is a bachelor. then John is unmarried. All of these relationships can be expressed in the form of the following conditional claims: 1. then. and being male and unmarried are jointly sufficient for being a bachelor. then John is male. This means John's being a bachelor is sufficient for John's being male. This means John's being a bachelor is sufficient for John's being unmarried. is necessary but is not sufficient for being a bachelor. . Being unmarried. If John is a bachelor. 2.bachelor because she is a woman. being unmarried is also necessary for being a bachelor.
For instance. Things that are faithful is another class that may include all dogs. things that smell. This is a more natural way of saying . Humans. and many other classes. Hamsters. Usually people say something like ³All dogs are hairy´. and so on. things that eat. A simple way to represent the relationship between classes is in terms of the following diagram: B A This diagram represents the claim that the entire class of objects A is included within the class of objects B. we said that the class Dogs. is included within the class of objects Things with hair. some humans. of things with hair. We can represent this with a similar diagram: Things with Hair Dogs This shows us that while everything that is a dog is a thing with hair. regardless of what kind of dogs they are. Things with hair. Any one thing can be a member of many different classes. Dogs is a class of objects that contains all dogs. Most people don't express this idea so awkwardly. Above.Classes These logical relationships can also be understood in terms of the relations between classes of objects. A class is a group of objects that share a particular characteristic. my dog is a member of the class of pets. but not cats or hamsters. is a larger class of objects that includes the entire class of dogs within it as well as the class Cats. not everything that is a thing with hair is a dog.
This also expresses a relationship between things that can be understood in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions.exactly the same thing. of this is is to of If you find it helpful to use these diagrams to determine necessary and sufficient conditions. and that being hairy is necessary for being a dog. In our diagrams above. saying exactly the same thing. To say that all dogs are hairy is to say that being a dog is sufficient for being hairy. To say that only men are bachelors say that there are no bachelors that are not men. being a member of the class represented by the smaller circle is always sufficient for being a member of the class represented by the larger circle. Once again. remember this simple rule: . ³Only men are bachelors´. Instead saying ³All bachelors are male.´ one might say. Necessary Condition Sufficient Condition We saw earlier that being male is necessary for being a bachelor and that being a bachelor is sufficient for being male. or that the class bachelors is entirely enclosed within the class of men. and being a member of the larger circle is always necessary for being a member of the smaller circle. We can now represent this claim using a diagram like the ones above: Males Bachelors Sometimes one might express this idea in a different way. This can also be expressed by saying ³All bachelors are male´. even though the words used are different.
only outside. Only All .All inside.
The only time what follows the word ³if´ in a conditional claim is not the sufficient condition is when the word ³only´ precedes the word ³if´. we have the following relationships: Your keeping talking is sufficient for my tearing you a new one. Rule 1 . Thus. Nevertheless. Negation Often a conditional statement will contain a negation. Your wearing those pants is necessary for my laughing. Look at the following example: I'll tear you a new one if you keep talking. Sometimes conditional claims take a slightly different form from this. My tearing you a new one is necessary for your keeping talking. Another form of conditional claim. then. There are two rules you should learn to help you deal with negation. this is still a conditional claim. My laughing is sufficient for your wearing those pants. Notice that this does not have the standard form if x then y. The rest is the consequent and the necessary condition. is this: x only if y Example I'll laugh only if you wear those pants. What follows the word ³if´ is still the antecedent and is also still the sufficient condition. The word ³if´ appears in the middle of the sentence and the word ³then´ doesn't appear at all.Other Forms of Conditional Claims We saw earlier that conditional claims usually take the form If x then y where x (the antecedent) is sufficient for y (the consequent) and y is necessary for x.
Example You can't go outside unless you put on your pants. my questions on the quiz are most easily resolved using this approach (hint. So make it easy for yourself and use the following method. Since I use this myself. take the rest of the original claim. 2. then not being a male is sufficient for not being a bachelor. not B is necessary for not A. Rule 2 If B is sufficient for A. then not being a bachelor is necessary for not being a male. 1. then not A is sufficient for not B Example If being male is necessary for being a bachelor. Here are two simple steps to help you do this. Take what follows ³unless´. Unless Some conditional claims include the word ³unless. but it will often lead you into trouble because it frequently requires additional steps involving negation. If the premise of an argument employs ³unless. The rest of the original claim takes the place of the consequent. So we take this. negate it and make it the antecedent in the new conditional claim. What LeBlanc tells you in the textbook is fine. Example If being a bachelor is sufficient for being a male.´ the easiest way to identify the necessary and sufficient conditions is to translate the statement into standard conditional form (if x then y).´ I am going to diverge from the textbook here and give you a much easier and more reliable method for dealing with these kinds of claims. negate it and make it the antecedent in the new conditional claim as follows: If you don't put on your pants. What follows ³unless´ is ³you put on your pants´. just as it is (don't change anything). and make it the consequent in your new conditional claim by . Anything that isn't a male cannot be a bachelor.If A is necessary for B. hint). then Now.
Your not going outside is necessary for your not putting on your pants. Your not paying your debt is sufficient for not keeping your kneecaps. You end up with this: If you don't put on your pants. then we will be thrown out of the bar. John's hurling is sufficient for our being thrown out of the bar. first put this into standard conditional form. we'll be thrown out of the bar. then you can't go outside. Example You can't keep your kneecaps unless you pay your debt. Put this into standard conditional form using the method outlined above: If you do not pay your debt. You can use these two steps to deal with any conditional claim including ³unless´. If John does hurl. To identify the necessary and sufficient conditions. then you can't keep your kneecaps. Now that the claim is in standard conditional form it is much easier to identify the necessary and sufficient conditions. Here are all of the possible equivalences: A unless B A unless not B Not A unless B Not A unless not B Unless A then B Unless A then not B Unless not A then B Unless not A then not B Example Unless John does not hurl. Your not putting on your pants is sufficient for your not going outside. If not B then A If B then A If not B then not A If B then not A If not A then B If not A then not B If A then B If A then not B .placing it after the word ³then´. Our being thrown out of the bar is necessary for John hurling.
X is Batman if and only if X is Bruce Wayne.Your not keeping your kneecaps is necessary for not paying your debt. then being Bruce Wayne is both necessary and sufficient for being Batman. Not having any dessert is necessary for your not eating your meat. In this case A is both Necessary and Sufficient for B. Since this contains the word ³unless´. Examples X is water if and only if X is H2O. Example You can't have any dessert unless you eat your meat. Definition and Identity Sometimes a single condition can be both necessary and sufficient. then being water is sufficient for being H2O and being H2O is sufficient for being water. if water is defined as H2O. If you don't eat your meat. translate it into standard conditional form. then you can't have any dessert. and B is both Necessary and Sufficient for A. Definitions and identities are sometimes expressed as conditional claims using the phrase ³if and only if´. Not eating your meat is sufficient for your not having any dessert. Similarly. and being Batman is both necessary and sufficient for being Bruce Wayne. If Batman is identical to Bruce Wayne. .
but hidden. valid deductive arguments are extremely powerful tools to use if you want to convince someone of a certain claim. What matters is whether or not it is possible for the conclusion to be false if the premises were true.Conditional Arguments Now that we have seen how to identify necessary and sufficient conditions in a variety of statements. In logic. It is important to note. this differs significantly from the technical understanding of the term. validity refers to the relationship between the premises of an argument and its conclusion. Validity Validity is a technical term in logic that is used in the evaluation of deductive arguments. More specifically. While you have likely heard people refer to an argument or opinion as valid. Arguments that contain conditional claims as at least one premise are called ³conditional arguments´. An argument is valid if and only if the conclusion necessarily follows from its premises. Hence. there is an absolute guarantee that the conclusion is true as well. Part of how a deductive argument is defined is in terms of the concept of validity. that the premises of a deductive argument need not actually be true in order for the argument to be valid. This means that if an argument is valid. an argument's validity is a function of its logical form or structure. in their premises. Another way this is expressed is as follows: An argument is valid if it is impossible for its premises to be true and for its conclusion to be false. so let's look at this first. The kinds of conditional arguments we will be concerned with are called ³deductive´ arguments. however. and if its premises are true. let's see how these claims are used in arguments. What deductive arguments all share is that their conclusions are always implicitly present. Example All men are made of peanut butter Alice is a man . In common usage a ³valid´ argument or opinion usually means that it is one worth holding or one we should respect.
Therefore, Alice is made of peanut butter This argument is deductively valid. Even though both of its premises are in fact false, if they were true, the conclusion would also have to be true. Does the truth of the premises of a deductive argument matter? Of course it does. If you want to use the above argument to convince me that Alice is made of peanut butter, it had better be true that Alice is a man and that all men are made of peanut butter. That is, if the conclusion of a valid deductive argument is true and follows from the premises of the argument, those premises need to be true.
The soundness of an argument is a function of the truth of its premises. An argument is sound if and only if it has all true premises. If any of the premises of an argument are false, then the argument is said to be unsound. Hence, the above argument about Alice is valid but unsound. Good arguments are both valid and sound. These are the kinds of arguments you should strive for. There are, however, bad deductive arguments that may be sound but are invalid. You need to be able to spot these when you encounter them. We will examine four common types of conditional argument. Two of these are valid forms of argument and two are invalid.
Valid Conditional Arguments
Modus Ponens The first and most common form of valid conditional argument goes by two names: modus ponens and affirming the sufficient condition. Modus ponen is Latin for ³mood that affirms´. The form modus ponens takes is as follows: Premise 1: If p then q Premise 2: p Conclusion: therefore q ³p´ and ³q´ stand for any proposition. Plug in any proposition you want and the conclusion will always follow. Notice that the first premise is a conditional claim. The second premise affirms part of the conditional. That is, it says that p is in fact the case. We saw earlier that this part of a conditional claim is called the antecedent and is always the sufficient condition. This explains why this form of argument is sometimes called ³affirming the sufficient condition´. Finally, the argument draws a positive conclusion. It affirms the other part of the conditional. Since everything the argument does after the first premise is an affirmation, it is also sometimes called by the Latin for ³mood that affirms´ (modus ponens). An Important Note About Affirming p and q can stand for any proposition, even a proposition that says something is not the case (a negation), which can sometimes make it hard to determine whether or not p is affirmed in the second premise. Consider the following example: If you don't put your pants on, then I'll call the police. You didn't put your pants on. Therefore, I called the police. It is tempting here to say that p is denied in the second premise because the claim You didn't put your pants on expresses a negative statement. This is actually not the case as we can see if we break the first premise down into its two components: If you don't put your pants then I'll call the on, police.
P Sufficient Condition
Q Necessary Condition
As we can see, p is what is expressed in the entire first part of the above conditional claim. It is the proposition you don't put your pants on. To determine whether the second premise in a conditional argument like this affirms or denies p, you need to compare what is said in the first premise with what is said in the second. The second premise says You didn't put your pants on. This is saying the same thing as what was stated in the first part of the first premise (except for a change in tense, but you can ignore that in conditional arguments altogether). That is, they both express the same proposition or state of affairs: you haven't put your pants on. Since the second premise says the same thing as p in the first premise, p is affirmed. We therefore have an example of modus ponens. The argument is valid. Example If Janet gets the job, then I'll resign from the board. Janet got the job. Therefore, I'll resign. Standardizing Modus Ponens
Modus ponens is always standardized as it is above. The conditional claim (the first premise) is linked with the second premise (in which the sufficient condition is affirmed). Together these support the conclusion, which is the other half of the conditional claim. Example Jill will only win the award if she doesn't offend the judges. Jill won the award. Therefore, Jill didn't offend the judges. Is this an example of modus ponens? The first thing you should notice about this example is that the first premise is a conditional claim containing ³only if´. Recall the rule about conditionals with ³only if´: ³only if´ introduces the necessary condition. So, does the second premise affirm the sufficient or the necessary condition?
I won't call the police. we will see that this is not so. q is what is expressed in the entire second part of the . This form of argument is also called ³denying the necessary condition´ because this is what happens in the second premise. which is Latin for ³mood that denies´. When we have a conditional claim if p then q. The argument takes this form: If p then q Not q Therefore. However. because it is a positive statement. Therefore. we know that if q didn't happen. So if we say ³not q´ we are denying the necessary condition. Hence. if we examine the first premise more carefully. it can be difficult to tell when a proposition is denied. It is tempting to say that premise 2 (I called the police) affirms something. Just as it can be hard to tell when a proposition is affirmed.In premise 2 we are affirming the sufficient condition. p must not have happened. If you put your pants on. I won't call the police. I called the police. from these two pieces of information we can draw the conclusion that p didn't happen or is not the case. this is an example of modus ponens and is a valid argument. not p The argument is called ³mood that denies´ because both the second premise and the conclusion are negations. q is necessary for p. An Important Note About Denying We saw above that you need to be very careful to be clear about what p and q express in order to tell whether a proposition is affirmed or denied in a conditional argument. Since q is a necessary consequence of p. you didn't put your pants on. Modus Tollens The second common form of valid conditional argument is modus tollens. Hence. P Sufficient Condition Q Necessary Condition As we can see. Consider the following example: If you put your pants on.
So far. Therefore.first premise: I won't call the police. and we also know that you don't feel tired. It is. you feel tired. Without the other. is denying the necessary condition. which means it is easy to identify the necessary and sufficient conditions. From the conditional we can tell that working out is sufficient for feeling tired and that feeling tired is necessary for working out. The first thing you should notice about it is that it does not contain words like ³only´ or ³unless´. Let's look at a few examples: Example If you work out. The two premises are linked and support the conclusion as illustrated below. The argument concludes by denying the rest of the conditional claim (remember ³mood that denies´). then you will feel tired. Example . and so we have modus tollens. The second premise says I called the police. the negation of q. Let's think about the argument more concretely. The reason the premises are linked is that both are required to motivate the conclusion. If we assume that the conditional claim is true. meaning that every time you work out. then. Standardizing Modus Tollens We standardize modus tollens the same way we standardize modus ponens. then we know that. The second premise. I called the police is equivalent to saying it is not the case that I won't call the police. we need to compare what is said in the first premise with what is said in the second. Hence. This is a valid argument. This is clearly different from the proposition expressed by q. The first premise is a conditional claim. so good. among other things. in fact. you didn't work out. To determine whether q is affirmed or denied in the second premise of the argument. the second premise denies q. neither premise gives the conclusion any support. that you must not have worked out (otherwise you would feel tired). You don't feel tired. Has the correct conclusion been drawn? Yes. In effect.
I didn't get a ride. The conclusion denies the other half of the conditional claim. It is saying that it is not the case that I can get a ride to the mountains. A handy way to remember which forms of argument are valid is to make use of the following rule: AFFIRM THE SUFFICIENT CONDITION & DENY THE NESSECARY CONDITION. so we therefore have an example of modus tollens. This means that my getting a ride is necessary for my going to the mountains. I can't go to the mountains. is denying the necessary condition. In this case notice that the conditional claim contains ³only if´. then. Anything else is invalid. Therefore.I can only go to the mountains if I can get a ride. The second premise. . Remember that ³only if´ always introduces a necessary condition.
or has q as a necessary consequence. Therefore. and that my laughing is necessary for your taking off your clothes. Perhaps I am thinking about a funny joke someone told me earlier. I didn't laugh.e. As long as you can identify necessary and sufficient conditions and remember the rules just mentioned. Like the previous valid forms of argument. we cannot actually draw the conclusion that q is not the case.Invalid Conditional Arguments There are two invalid conditional arguments that are often confused with the valid forms we just looked at. this is not the only thing that can make me laugh. Even though p entails (i. these names are derived primarily from what happens in the second premise of the argument. Example If you take off your clothes. I'll laugh.. This argument has the following form: If p then q Not p Therefore not q Why is this invalid? The reason is that from the information we are given in the premises. leads to or implies) q. laugh if you take off your clothes. the argument is an example of denying the antecedent. Denying the Antecedent The first form of invalid conditional argument is called ³denying the sufficient condition´ or ³d enying the antecedent´. you shouldn't have any trouble recognizing these invalid forms of argument. if p does not happen this is no guarantee that q didn't happen or will not happen. Other things might make me laugh besides your undressing. The main reason for this is that something else other than p could lead to q. The conditional claim tells us that your taking off your clothes is sufficient for my laughing. Why can't we draw the conclusion that I didn't laugh from these two premises? Even if it is true that I will. so we can't rule out the . You did not take off your clothes. Hence. which is invalid. Let's examine this more with the help of an example. First. let's consider the form of the argument. The second premise of the argument is denying the sufficient condition (the antecedent). without fail.
broken water mains. Notice also the structure of the argument. p The reason this is invalid is that.. But that is not the issue. we know the conclusion does not necessarily follow. Even though it is true that if it rains the streets must get wet.possibility that I will laugh from the premises provided. ³What can we conclude for certain. The question is. It might very well be true that the streets aren't wet. then the streets will be wet. Hence. The reason for this is similar to the problem with denying the antecedent. What does the second premise of this argument do? It denies the antecedent or the sufficient condition. the street washer. but it could equally well be false. The second premise is an affirmation. It might be true. we cannot conclude that if q happened. Affirming the Consequent The second common form of invalid conditional argument is called ³affirming the consequent´ or ³affirming the necessary condition´. Because the argument does not provide a guarantee that the conclusion is true. Therefore. from the premises provided we have no guarantee that the conclusion is true. p must have happened. This argument has the following form: If p then q q Therefore. This does not mean that the conclusion is false. Even though p must. Maybe it snowed. Therefore. snow). The streets are wet. the streets aren't wet. Example If it rains then the streets will be wet. or maybe a dam burst. once again. besides p can lead to q. it is invalid. we can't conclude from this and from the fact that the streets are wet that it did in fact rain. Example If it rains. .g. Other things. given what we do know?´ The reason we can't conclude that the streets aren't wet from these two premises is that the streets can be wet for a number of other reasons (e. It didn't rain. necessarily lead to q. and what it is affirming is the necessary condition. it rained.
negating it. We had a barbeque. replace the first premise of the above argument with our new conditional. The conditional claim tells us that your bringing some chicken is sufficient for our having a barbeque. Recall that we do this by taking what follows ³unless´. Example . then you can't go outside.Example If you bring some chicken. and that our having a barbeque is necessary for your bringing some chicken. The best way to deal with this is to reformulate this claim in standard conditional form. Example You can't go outside unless you put on your shoes. let's look at a few examples to practice identifying them. Notice that the conditional claim contains the word ³unless´. Now. you brought some chicken. What we end up with is this: If you don't put on your shoes. it is much easier to identify the necessary and sufficient conditions. you didn't go outside. The rest of the original claim takes the place of the consequent. The argument therefore is an example of modus ponens. It is valid since the conclusion necessarily follows from the premises. Now that we've seen four forms of conditional argument. and so is affirming the necessary condition or the consequent. Therefore. Your not putting on your shoes is sufficient for your not going outside. Now that we have rewritten the argument with the first premise in standard conditional form. You didn't put on your shoes. you didn't go outside. then we'll have a barbeque. This is a considerably trickier example. and your not going outside is necessary for your not putting on your shoes. The second premise says we had a barbeque. The argument is therefore invalid. You didn't put on your shoes. and making it the antecedent in the new conditional claim. then you can't go outside. Therefore. Therefore. The argument should look like this: If you don't put on your shoes.
So this argument is denying the sufficient condition and is therefore invalid. The first premise of this argument is a standard conditional claim. It is doing something with the sufficient condition. I'll paint his room pink. The proposition has instead changed .If you pee into the wind. you didn't get your shoes wet. ³Only if´ introduces a necessary condition. then her mother will cry. her mother doesn't cry. The argument is invalid. Therefore. Example If Tamara doesn't call her mother. The antecedent in the conditional is Tamara doesn't call her mother . I painted his room pink. Example Unless he tells me otherwise. What happens in the second premise? Be careful here. You didn't pay me. If he doesn't tell me otherwise. you'll get your shoes wet. If the second premise were affirming this. Here the second premise affirms the necessary condition (the consequent). The second premise is thus denying the sufficient condition. Rewrite the argument with the first premise in standard conditional form. I'll paint his room pink. Therefore. I painted his room pink. he didn't tell me otherwise. Your peeing into the wind is sufficient for your getting your shoes wet and your getting your shoes wet is necessary for your peeing into the wind. Therefore. This conditional claim contains ³only if´. Your shoes might have gotten wet for some other reason. it would just repeat it: ³Tamara doesn't call her mother´. Therefore. Tamara calls her mother. Is it affirming it or denying it? It is denying it. Example Only if you paid me would I go to see Patch Adams. You didn't pee into the wind. Why? Because the conclusion could be false. This conditional claim contains the word ³unless´. Therefore. he didn't tell me otherwise. I didn't go to see Patch Adams. The argument is therefore invalid .
This is the result of denying the proposition Tamara doesn't call her mother .from negative to positive. Denying this proposition is like saying the following: It is not the case that Tamara doesn't call her mother. This argument therefore denies the sufficient condition (the antecedent) and is therefore invalid. . This is equivalent to: Tamara calls her mother.
but that's not God´ then I have failed.Language and Definitions One of the most important things we need to do when we argue for a claim or view is to ensure that we are not misunderstood. For example. To succeed we need to agree from the start what God is like. . There are several different kinds of definitions one can use. suppose I want to prove to you that God exists. at the end of my argument you say. If I want to convince you of the truth of a proposition p. If. ³You have proved the existence of something . then I had better make sure you understand p the way I intend p to be understood. The best way to ensure understanding is to define the key terms in your argument.
Animals probably have minds. my computer and my thermostat have minds. If I did not intend for these things to be considered minds. I might make it too narrow. This definition might be broader than I want. Such modifications can be very slight or can involve significant changes in meaning. It shouldn't include things that should be excluded. When making adjustments to a stipulative definition there is a risk of going too far in the opposite direction. and respond to it. process it. Usually. it needs to be widened to include things like animals. Since my definition of mind is too narrow. then my definition is too broad and needs to be adjusted to exclude these things. Since I want ³mind´ to mean something quite specific I might provide the following stipulative definition: a mind is anything that can take in information. ³Mind´ is a very broad term that can mean all kinds of things. usually something more specific than a lexical definition can provide. The definition must not be too narrow. According to this definition. 2. It shouldn't exclude things that should be included. For instance. as do plants and all kinds of other things. Suppose I want to argue about the mind. It describes the way a word is ordinarily understood and used. Usually this involves modifying the established lexical meaning of a term in some way.Kinds of Definitions Reportive or Lexical A reportive or lexical definition is a dictionary definition. The definition must not be too broad. . then this might mean that things I believe do have minds are excluded by the definition. Stipulative A stipulative definition establishes a new meaning of a word for a particular purpose. It is too broad if the definition allows for the possibility of things having minds that shouldn't. Any good stipulative definition will satisfy these criteria. 1. If you make use of a stipulative definition there are three criteria the definition should meet. if I define having a mind as having the ability to formulate and entertain propositions. This is because when we argue for a conclusion we need our key terms to mean something very specific. when we make use of definitions in arguments we employ stipulative definitions. but it is doubtful that they formulate and entertain propositions.
The operation gives us certain measurable criteria that define the term. including things that shouldn't be included. Example Drunkenness is a relatively imprecise term. and excluding things that shouldn't be excluded. too narrow. It defines drunkenness in terms of blood-alcohol content (BAC). a word is defined in terms of when a specified operation yields a specified result. a definition can be both too broad and too narrow. The legal definition of drunkenness is an operational definition. or when they fall down and pass out. An ³operation´ is just a procedure needs to be followed. In operational definitions. The operation or procedure involves the use of a breathalyser. There is a procedure that we have to go through that involves testing blood for BAC. Remember that indicator words are only a general guide and do not guarantee the presence of what they indicate. They use a legal definition that is an operational definition. they are a kind of stipulative definition. the police cannot rely on such an unclear definition of drunkenness. Indicator words . We might say someone is drunk when he or she slurs their words. Finally. These are sneaky attempts to redefine terms in ways that are inappropriate (because they are too broad. The definition must not be both too broad and too narrow. If I say that having a mind is a matter of possessing rationality. When the breathalyser indicates a particular result. These are disguised stipulative definitions used in arguments as premises. this might exclude things that clearly do have minds (such as children or irrational individuals) and might include things like computers and thermostats.3. or specifies necessary and sufficient conditions for it. Persuasive Definitions Persuasive definitions are another kind of stipulative definition. Because operational definitions usually specify meanings that are more specific than lexical definitions. Obviously. you are drunk. One way to help you identify persuasive definitions is to look for the following indicator words. Operational A third type of definition that is frequently used in arguments is called an ³operational´ definition. or both). if you are to be charged with drunk driving.
Authentic. true Example A real man can drink at least sixteen beers before he gets drunk. A true Canadian plays hockey. A genuine leader is someone who can think on his or her feet. Persuasive definitions are just one example of what is called ³persuasive language´. . genuine. real.
but the agreement is not rationally motivated.´ and ³ties to the community. Example John Smith is guilty of the senseless slaughter of innocent children. and father of three.´ ³preys. with ties to the community. good arguments should be formulated using neutral language. He is a butcher who preys on the helpless. Example Mr. . is just the innocent victim of circumstance. Here the phrases ³fine.Persuasive Language The goal of using persuasive language or definitions is to influence the listener to accept a particular point of view or to make an argument seem stronger than it is. This means that persuasive language does not actually make an argument stronger.´ ³butcher. Emotionally charged language and euphemism are both examples of persuasive language. It can also work by producing positive or sympathetic feelings in the listener. Good arguments use rational persuasion rather than emotion to convince others of a conclusion.´ ³innocent.´ are introduced to elicit sympathy for him. upstanding citizen. Jones. At on extreme is what is called ³emotionally charged language´ and at the other is what is called ³euphemism´. It only seems to. Here the words ³senseless.´ and ³helpless´ all function as emotionally charged language. casting John Smith in an extremely negative light. Hence. The language that is used to formulate an argument can be regarded as being located on a spectrum.´ ³innocent victim. Such language may be effective in getting people to agree with you.´ ³slaughter. Emotionally charged language need not always elicit negative feelings. He represents a low flight-risk. upstanding citizen.´ ³father of three. a fine. Emotionally <---------Charged Standard ------Euphamism or ---> Neutral Emotionally Charged Language Emotionally charged language involves t he use of words with additional emotional force to influence the listener's or reader's emotions.
In the case of semantic ambiguity. then we have semantic ambiguity.Ambiguity and Vagueness Ambiguity A word. the ambiguity arises because a single word in the sentence has more than one plausible meaning in the given context. Example She awoke with a jerk. Example Bank: This can refer to an institution that deals with money. Usually. Syntactic Ambiguity . the context in which a word is used eliminates any ambiguity about its meaning. This can mean either that there are insects in my room. Again. All of the alternative meanings are perfectly clear. or a shot used in billiards (to name a few possibilities). or listening devices used for surveillance. If I say. If the context does not narrow down the meaning of a word. Semantic Ambiguity A single word can be taken to have more than one plausible meaning in a single context. the edge of a river. or that she woke up next to someone of questionable character. Example I'm afraid that there are bugs in my room. or sentence is ambiguous when it has more than one meaning. ³The robbers are coming out of the bank. phrase. This can mean either that she woke up with a jolt. one or more words is used in a way that is ambiguous. Note that the ambiguity in this case stems from the uncertainty about the meaning of one word in the above sentence: ³bugs´. but from the context we don't know which one we should use.´ I probably intend to use the first meaning of ³bank´ mentioned above. leading to more than one plausible meaning in the context.
a speaker can slide between two or more meanings of a word in an argument without realizing it. however. . This is also called ³amphiboly´. and not because of the fact that one word in the sentence has multiple meanings. Example Noted UFO fanatic Peter Smith will talk to us tonight about sexual experiences with aliens in the student center. Sometimes. but are rare in arguments. In this case it is the way the sentence is formulated that leads to the ambiguity. This can mean either: Two sisters who haven't seen each other for 18 years meet by chance in a checkout line. These kinds of ambiguities can be amusing. It is guilty of a fallacy called ³equivocation´. Example Two Sisters Reunited after 18 Years in Checkout Line.Syntactic ambiguity occurs when an entire sentence can be taken to have several distinct meanings a result of the grammatical structure of the sentence. and that these experiences took place in the student centre. When this happens the argument is a bad one. Or Two sisters were in a checkout line for 18 years and were finally reunited after getting out of line. Or Peter Smith will talk to us tonight in the student center about sexual experiences people have had with aliens. This can mean either: Peter Smith will talk to us tonight about sexual experiences people have had with aliens.
For the argument to be valid the same meaning of the word must be used throughout the argument. Our schools should teach facts.´ In the argument the first premise uses meaning (a) and the second premise uses meaning (b). The only reason that the premises appear to support the conclusion is because the different senses of the word are not distinguished. This argument commits the fallacy of equivocation: distinct meanings of ³nothing´ are being used in the premises. Although theories are not proven.Fallacy of Equivocation A word is used in two different senses in an argument. Leftovers are better than nothing. In the first premise ³nothing´ is being used to mean. not fact. the argument looks valid until we distinguish between the different meanings of the word ³nothing´ at work in the premises. In this case. leftovers are better than a million dollars. despite the improbability of the conclusion. (b) Fanciful speculation as in ³this is one of my pet theories. not speculation. Here's another example. often grounded on general principles. Example Darwin's theory of evolution is just a theory. Example Nothing is better than a million dollars. ³There isn't anything I would like more.´ Notice that. our schools should not teach Darwin's theory of evolution. they are generally well founded and reliable.´ In the second premise ³nothing´ is being used to mean. A theory is speculation. The problem in this case is subtler than it was in the previous example. Since different meanings of the word ³theory´ . Therefore. Therefore. the argument is sliding between two meanings of the word ³theory´. A theory can be understood as either: (a) A consistent explanatory account of a given phenomenon. ³Not having anything to eat. used in science and elsewhere for prediction and explanation. This argument is also guilty of equivocation.
are used in the argument, the argument is invalid. To avoid equivocation, words must be used univocally . That is, they must be used with a consistent meaning throughout the argument.
Vagueness is like ambiguity since both are a problem with clarity of meaning. We saw that a word, phrase, or sentence is ambiguous when it has more than one plausible meaning in a single context. With ambiguity each of these meanings is perfectly clear. By contrast, a word, phrase, or sentence is vague when it has no definite meaning at all. This means that we can't pick which meaning to use. Instead, there is no clear meaning at all . Some words are intrinsically vague in all contexts. For example, ³bald´, ³sick´ and ³good´ are all vague terms. We cannot specify necessary and sufficient conditions for being sick, bald, or good. Arguably, one is sick when one has cancer and when one has a blister. Some words are intrinsically vague, but can nevertheless have quite specific meanings in the appropriate context. For example, ³small,´ ³medium,´ and ³large´ are vague terms but have quite clear meanings in the context of sorting eggs or buying a soft drink at the movies. Two kinds of terms that are always vague and that should always be avoided in your own arguments are what are called ³useless modifiers´ and ³relative terms´. Useless Modifiers are words and phrases like these: ³Very,´ ³so much,´ ³a lot,´ ³kind of,´ ³sort of´ These are words that a speaker employs when he or she cannot be bothered to find out the true extend of something. If I think that Stockwell Day is out of favour among the members of the Canadian Alliance Party, but don't know how many members of the party want him to step down, I might say, ³He is sort of unpopular.´ To say that Day is sort of unpopular does not actually tell us anything informative. One should be more precise than this, especially in an argument. Relative Terms are words like these: ³Big,´ ³small,´ ³tall,´ ³short,´ ³fast,´ ³slow,´ etc. ³A big car´ is vague unless we specify more about it. ³A big car for four 250 pound men´ is much more precise. We need to know what it is big in relation to in order to have a statement that isn't vague. Arguments can employ vague terms, phrases, or sentences. When they do, they are bad arguments. This is because if a term in one of the premises is vague, it has no definite meaning. If I say, ³John is sort of smart,´ or, ³John is big´ I am not saying
anything specific about John. If I say, ³John is smart´ or ³John is big for a 9 year old´, then I am saying something specific. In arguments we need to say things that are specific, not vague. If a premise has no definite meaning, then it cannot be true or false and so cannot support any particular conclusion. Recognizing Vagueness The best way to determine whether or not words or claims are vague is to determine whether or not there are clear truth-conditions for using them. To determine this, ask yourself. ³Under what circumstances, and how could we tell if the claim is true?´ If you can't imagine how to answer this question, then the claim is vague. Example The psychic hotline can help you achieve personal growth by reaching into your soul. This is a fine example. How would you know that it is true that the psychic hotline reached into your soul? The soul, if it exists, is certainly not something we can observe or measure. Hence, this claim is vague and should not be used or accepted as part of an argument. Finally, it is important to recognize that a passage can be ambiguous and vague at the same time. Example Even after our long walk in the rain together, Joseph was still rather dry. The phrase ³long walk´ is vague, as is ³rather dry´. The sentence is also ambiguous. Saying that Joseph was rather dry could mean that he didn't get wet, that his sense of humour remained sardonic, or that he was thirsty. Since these alternative meanings arise as a result of the single word ³dry´ having multiple meanings, these are examples of semantic ambiguity. The word ³our´ is also ambiguous. It could mean ³me and Joseph´ or ³me and someone other than Joseph´.
The painting was taken from the gallery at 10:35. In this section we will examine several methods used to support premises.Accepting Premises Most of what was discussed in the previous section concerned the status of the premises of an argument. Darren has told us that at that time he was talking to John in the library. Example John could not have stolen the painting. its logical structure becomes clear. one is formulating one or more subarguments to support premises that might not be readily accepted. In this case the conclusion of the argument is that John could not have stolen the painting. If we were to standardize this argument. The reference to John's conversation with the Bishop is intended as support for one of the central premises in the main argument. the premises of an argument will often still require support. and should make use of definitions where necessary to prevent misunderstanding. to support a particular conclusion premises must not be vague or ambiguous. The main argument is that John was elsewhere when the painting was stolen. In this case. As we saw. Provide an Argument The best way to ensure a premise is acceptable is to provide an argument to show that it is true. Darren is a Bishop and wouldn't lie about that. Even if one has taken all of these steps. should not be phrased in emotionally charged language. .
then be prepared to offer a subargument in support of the premise that is contentious.Common Knowledge A claim is said to be common knowledge if most people in the relevant group know the claim to be true. it is a good idea to pause and ask. 2. Bush is the President. 3. Sometimes the audience can be different from the group to which the information would be considered common knowledge. and not merely shared false belief. Make sure that the audience is likely to be part of the group for whom the information is common knowledge. For example. If the audience requires additional support. Example Before Freud. In this case we are relying on the report of the facts as observed by someone else. the concept of the subconscious was not widely accepted. If the audience is not a part of the relevant group (the group for whom the information is common knowledge). What is regarded as common knowledge is relative not only to groups of people. Make sure you can offer other evidence in support of the premise. ³Is it really knowledge?´ Sometimes items of information make their way into a group and are widely accepted as true but are in fact false. . Another very common way of justifying the use of premises in arguments is to appeal to testimony. when you appeal to common knowledge there are three things to beware of: 1. most people in the United States know that George W. but now it is. but most people in the United States do not know that Jean Crétien is the Canadian Prime Minister. An extreme example of this can happen when we acknowledge the relativity of common knowledge. Example It was not always common knowledge that information about our physical traits is encoded in our DNA. then the premise needs additional support. When appealing to common knowledge. but to times as well. So. Make sure that the claim that you think is common knowledge actually is knowledge.
Reliability Is the person giving the testimony trustworthy? If not. When this happens testimony might seem to be . if john says he was in conversation with the Bishop at the time of the robbery. the more that is at stake. In our example. If John claims that he couldn't have stolen the painting because at the time of the theft we was suddenly sucked into an alternative dimension. Things like this just don't happen.Testimony We can define testimony as the communication of someone's own personal experience. Since we believe something so firmly. 3. then the testimony is plausible and should be given some consideration. The weight we can give to testimony will depend on a number of things. We are relying on the Bishop's testimony. Restricted to Personal Experience Finally. Obviously. we probably don't want to base his innocence on his testimony alone. since Bishops usually tell the truth. How do we know that John was in the Library at the time of the theft? Because the Bishop says he saw him there. testimony must be based on personal experience. Think about what happens in a trial when a witness gives testimony. then their testimony should not be given much weight. 1. and we know that John and the Bishop are old friends who chat when they get the chance. There are three criteria that need to be met for testimony to be an acceptable reason for accepting the premise of an argument. so the testimony is very implausible. we think we have first-hand knowledge when we do not. or if he or she has an earned reputation as a liar. his testimony as to John's whereabouts during the theft is reliable. 2. The witness is always directed to testify only about events he or she saw first hand. Plausibility A claim is plausible if it could be true and if it fits with what you already know. One of these is the importance of the conclusion. Otherwise. Sometimes we claim to know something is true and declare so when it is in fact beyond our own experience. On the other hand. the testimony is called hearsay and is thrown out by the judge. the closer we need to scrutinize appeals to testimony.
. ³NYPD Blue is the best show on television. but is probably not. ask yourself whether or not the claim under discussion is actually within the bounds of the witness offering the testimony. even though I might not realize this. When you see an appeal to testimony in an argument. The problem is that unless I have watched everything else on television I am not really in a position to say that NYPD Blue is better than all of the other shoes on TV.´ This might seem like reasonable testimony. It is likely that this claim actually extends beyond my personal experience. Suppose I watch NYPD Blue religiously and say.reliable. but in fact is not.
Think about those ads for toothpaste in which it is claimed that eight out of ten dentists recommend a particular brand over others. and the argument becomes a bad one. The authority must be identified Who are the authorities being appealed to? Unless we know that. An authority is someone who knows more about a subject than most people. so we should not accept what they say as supporting anything. We often need to make claims about things we don't know that much about in our arguments. we cannot evaluate whether or not the authority really is an authority or is worth taking seriously. The matter must be in the authority's field of expertise The expert must be an authority on what is being discussed. Who are these dentists? How do we know they are good dentists. . 1. or one of only a very few experts. The matter must be one on which there is a consensus of experts There is no point appealing to an authority to support a premise if that particular individual is the only one. not as a person. 4. One should avoid using rogue scholars as authorities. The authority must be respectable What is at issue is the authority's caliber as an expert.Authority A third method of supporting premises is the use of experts or authorities. who endorse the claim in question. Russian cinema. One's calibre as an expert is measured in different ways depending on the field of study. but doing so must accord with certain rules. If these rules are not met. Academics are often evaluated by where they studied and how much they publish in the field. An angler's expertise might be measured by how many years she has been fishing. 3. or have had access to other brands of toothpaste? We don't. When this happens we appeal to someone else who knows more than us about the subject under discussion. Appealing to authorities is a useful means of supporting premises in arguments. or better. 2. There is no point appealing to what a geophysicist thinks about Russian cinema to support the claim that Eisenstein was a superior filmmaker to Pudovkin. Find someone who specializes in cinema. then the appeal to authority is fallacious.
³Dichotomy argument´ is somewhat of a misnomer for the kind of arguments we will look at in this section. Not all dichotomy arguments are bad. which suggests that in a dichotomy argument we are faced with only two options. and not all of them are good.Fallacies Resulting From Bad Premises Dichotomy Arguments A dichotomy argument is one in which one of the premises is a disjunction or where one is explicitly or implicitly forced to choose between options. The word ³dichotomy´ means ³division in two´. but this will frequently include more than two alternatives. The understanding of dichotomy argument we will use involves facing options. Dichotomy arguments can be good or bad arguments. .
we can stay home. or we can go to the pub. The disjunction is always linked with the premises that rule out particular disjuncts. so we are left with only one alternative as the conclusion: staying home. so we'll have to stay home. Here the first premise is a disjunction with three disjuncts (going to the movies. . staying home. We can standardize these arguments schematically as follows: Notice that the main premises above are linked. The premise A. It can be broken into parts. The other premises in the argument rule the other disjuncts out except for one. where the reader is presented with two or more possibilities. The additional premises rule out two of the three disjuncts. A disjunction can have an unlimited number of disjuncts. Each disjunct is a proposition that is presented as a choice or option. This sentence is a disjunction. This is because all of these premises need to be asserted together to support the conclusion. B or C does not support the conclusion B unless we also have the other premises Not A and Not C . Example We can go to the movies or we can go out for dinner. and going to the pub). which are called ³disjuncts´.Disjunctions A disjunction is a statement with the word ³or´ in it. In the above example there are two: We can go to the movie And We can go out for dinner In dichotomy arguments we are usually presented with a disjunction of some sort in which we are presented with several alternatives (the disjuncts). We can't afford to go to the movies and we've been banned from the pub. Example We can go to the movies.
This claim is false only if none of its disjuncts are true. 2. Mike and John both committed the murder together. There are subpremises that are used to support the premises in which disjuncts are eliminated. Example Mike or John committed the murder. This would be the case if neither Mike nor John committed the murder. . An interesting logical feature of disjunctions is that any disjunction is true if one or all of its disjuncts are true. The first way is if the disjunction is treated as an exclusive disjunction but is really an inclusive disjunction . A bad dichotomy argument is guilty of a fallacy of false dichotomy .The standardization for this would like this: Notice that this argument includes a subargument. This is true under any of the following conditions: 1. To understand this we need to clarify something about disjunctions. The fallacy of false dichotomy can happen in two ways. John committed the murder. Mike committed the murder. 3.
A disjunction is exclusive if only one of the disjuncts can be true. Ordinarily, if you order a sandwich and are asked, ³Do you want fries or salad with that?´ you are being presented with an exclusive disjunction. It is understood that you can't have fries and salad or a third , unnamed item, but must choose between the two. Example I can either drive us to the airport or we can take a cab. Since it would be very difficult both to drive and take a cab to the airport, this should be understood as an exclusive disjunction. The disjuncts, or choices, are mutually exclusive.
A disjunction is inclusive if two or more of its disjuncts can be true. Although we tend to think that when we see a disjunction we have to choose between alternatives, this isn't always the case. Consider the claim, ³You can run or you can miss your bus´. This is a disjunction but it is possible for both disjuncts to be true. Haven't you ever run and yet still missed your bus? Sometimes arguments will present you with a disjunction and treat it as though it is an exclusive disjunction when it is in fact an inclusive disjunction. This is a fallacy because it assumes we can rule out disjuncts or possibilities that we in fact cannot rule out. Example Cheryl has come into some money all of a sudden. Either she won the lottery, or she received an inheritance. She won the lottery. Therefore, she didn't receive an inheritance. In this argument we are presented with two possibilities (winning the lottery and receiving an inheritance). We are told in one of the premises of the argument that one of these possibilities (disjuncts) is true, and are asked to draw the conclusion that the other disjunct is false. Can we draw this conclusion? No. We can draw this conclusion only if the disjunction is exclusive, since this would mean that only one of the disjuncts could be true. The problem is that although it is extremely unlikely, it is possible for both disjuncts to be true. Winning the lottery does not preclude receiving an inheritance or vice versa. Cheryl could have done both.
The other kind of false dichotomy occurs when the disjunction is not exhaustive. This means that other plausible alternatives have not been mentioned or considered. Sometimes the options are not presented but are implied, as in the ³all or nothing´ version of the dichotomy argument. Example There is no way we can afford to fix everything that is wrong with our car, so we might as well not spend any money fixing it up. This is a fallacy because we are asked to choose between fixing everything that is wrong with the car and fixing nothing. Obviously we could spend some money on the more serious problems and ignore the others. Notice that this example, although it contains a disjunction, does not include the word ³or´. Not every dichotomy argument has the word ³or´ in it. Sometimes other options are not even implied although they exist. Example Opera is not for everyone. You either love it or hate it. Clearly there are other possible reactions to opera than these. If this were part of an argument we would be forced to choose between false alternatives since the other possibilities are not mentioned.
Example Human beings must be more than physical beings. This is exactly what the premise about immaterial souls says. Begging the Question breaks this rule since one of the premises is identical to the conclusion. Example Capital punishment should be required of all convicted drug dealers because they should be given the death penalty. this argument begs the question in the same way as the previous example.Begging The Question Another fallacy that is associated with bad premises is called ³begging the question´. This happens when one assumes what it is one wants to prove is already true. the word of God is revealed in the Bible. A rule of argumentation is that premises must always be more certain than the conclusion. There are three general ways in which an argument can beg the question. Since the contents of the Bible are true. 2. Since capital punishment is the same thing as the death penalty. What this argument amounts to saying is that human beings are not completely physical because they are not completely physical. It states very clearly in the Bible that God exists. 1. Saying this twice does not give the claim any logical support. because we all have immaterial souls. This is also known as making a ³circular´ argument. In this example the conclusion is just the same as saying that human beings have a nonphysical aspect in addition to their physical bodies. When a premise and the conclusion are the same proposition expressed in different words. The missing premise is that the contents of the Bible are true because they are the word of God. Example In revealed theology. . God exists. The more technical definition of begging the question is as follows: Using a proposition P as a premise or an assumption in an argument used to support P as a conclusion. When a subargument relies on a missing premise or an assumption that is identical to the conclusion of the main argument.
Using a theory that is being argued for to refute a counterexample to the theory. Example A: I deserve a larger salary than you because as sales manager my job is more important to the company. A appeals to the fact that she makes more money than B to support her claim that her job is more important. Here the debate is about whose job deserves the higher wage. My job is more important because I get paid more than you. Again. As production manager my job is just as important as yours. A's argument becomes circular. we have argued in a circle. 3. B: That's not true. A and B agree that this should be determined by whose job is more important to the company. A: No it isn't. Since this is the very point under discussion.The argument begs the question because the existence of God is used to justify the claim that what the Bible says is true. This argument boils down to saying that God exists because God exists. . When A and B disagree about that. and that is used to justify the claim that God exists.
Now let's examine some of the more common fallacies of relevance. This is what we want from a good argument. Finally. In such arguments there are premises that are presented as though they have a bearing on the issue in question. A premise can be negatively relevant to the conclusion. Fallacies of relevance are errors in reasoning that are linked to the use of irrelevant premises in an argument. Recall that in a counterargument the aim is to formulate an argument that undermines the conclusion of the original argument. It bears no interesting logical relationship to the conclusion. which is Latin for ³does not follow´ because conclusions do not follow from irrelevant premises. There are 3 kinds of relationships that a premise can have to a conclusion. In this case the premise supports the conclusion. . Negatively relevant premises usually appear in counterarguments. A premise can be positively relevant to the conclusion. 2. In this case the premise disproves the conclusion. a premise can be irrelevant to the conclusion. but they do not. An Irrelevant premise neither proves nor disproves the conclusion. An irrelevant premise is often called a ³non-sequitur´. or support the conclusion. 1. 3.Fallacies of Relevance In this section we will investigate another problem that can arise in arguments due to problems with premises.
not kiss my boo-boo. ask yourself if it is true. than it really is. it is a caricature of the other person's argument. It is a caricature of a real person. or less substantial. something that looks like a person but is made out of something that is not very substantial: straw. Hence. This is another straw person argument. . The fallacy consists in misrepresenting an argument when countering it. Example What I object to most about those people who oppose capital punishment is that they think that the lives of the convicted murderers are more important than the lives of their victims. When you see arguments like these and wonder if they are straw person arguments. When I see my doctor I want her to fix what's wrong with me. Here the speaker is attacking a caricature of a feminist view of health care ethics. whether or not people would really accept the view as it is described in the couterargument. A straw person argument involves representing someone else's argument as weaker. the speaker is guilty of a straw person fallacy. literally. A straw person is. Example The feminist claim that we should adopt an ethics of caring and response is untenable. It is unlikely that those who oppose capital punishment do so for the mentioned reason. or even just plausible. This is a bad argument because it responds to an argument no one actually holds or accepts. No feminist would think that their view of health care requires doctors to kiss injuries better.Straw Person Arguments The straw person argument is typically associated with counterarguments.
but it can also involve things like using humour and changing the subject. Example I disagree with you. Remember that episode of Law and Order where everyone witnesses the execution? That's a great show. but has neglected to offer any arguments of her own at all. Usually this involves introducing extraneous subject matter into the discussion. The term ³red herring´ is used to describe a tactic to take people off of the trail of something. isn't it? But I prefer Ben Stone to Jack McCoy. Capital punishment is wrong for all sorts of reasons. .Red Herring Fallacy A related fallacy is called the ³red herring fallacy´. Red herrings in arguments are an attempt to distract one's opponent from the real issue. Instead. she has just shifted attention to a television show. Here the speaker is responding to someone else's views on capital punishment.
He's a jumped up little twerp. He runs a pet store and wants to drum up business. In this case the speaker is attacking Charles' contention that everyone should have a pet. They are the kind of people who flock to Dirty Harry movies. Ad hominem arguments are divided into two categories. These people are not interested in deterrence. Usually this involves trading insults. His argument might have been a good one.Ad Hominem Arguments ³Ad hominem´ means ³to the person´. This is nonsense. Circumstantial In a circumstantial ad hominem one refers to the situation or circumstances of one's opponent rather than the opponent's argument. In an ad hominem argument one is attacking one's opponent rather than his or her argument. It is an . the death penalty is an effective deterrent against murder. and hence is guilty of the circumstantial ad hominem. This is a fallacy because trading insults does not address the quality of an opponent's argument. This argument is actually guilty of two fallacies of relevance. The speaker is not addressing any argument. Example According to the supporters of capital punishment. or otherwise making fun of the other person. Example Of course Charles would say that everyone should have a pet. Whether or not someone is a twerp is irrelevant to the quality of that person's argument. The fact that Charles is in a position to benefit from having his views of pet ownership adopted by others in no way undermines the reasons Charles might have given to support his view. and so cannot be used to dismiss it. Abusive In the case of an abusive ad hominem one simply attacks one's opponent's personality or intelligence. This can be done by ridiculing or insulting. Example What the reverend has to say about the labour dispute is not worth listening to. There are circumstantial ad hominems and there are abusive ad hominems. They want vengeance.
. It is also an example of a straw person because it offers a caricature of the opposing view. In fact.abusive ad hominem because it does little but attack those with a different opinion about the death penalty. It is common for an argument to contain more than one fallacy of relevance. It is extremely unlikely that those who support the death penalty do so only because they are interested in vengeance. it is rare to find arguments that are guilty of only one fallacy of relevance.
The fact that someone who offers an argument is a hypocrite is irrelevant to the strength of his or her argument or the truth of his or her conclusions. Example John: You cheated on your income tax. Don't you realize that's wrong? Martha: Hey! You cheated on your income tax last year. Example Why should I take your advice? You never listen to anybody. Or have you forgotten about that? The fact that John cheated on his income tax last year does not mean that it is permissible for Martha to do it this year. Just because the person in question never takes advice does not mean that the advice he or she has to offer is not worth following.Tu Quoque Fallacy This is Latin for ³you too´. The tu quoque fallacy involves accusing one's opponent of hypocrisy. . It might be equally wrong for both of them to cheat.
Fallacious Appeal to Authority Earlier we saw that one way to support the premises of an argument is by appealing to an authority. This means we can't tell if they are experts in the relevant field. Example 4 out of 5 experts agree. Soapy brand soap gets your whites their whitest. 2. ask yourself if the person pushing the product is really an expert with knowledge relevant to the product being sold. 4. 3. The authority doesn't work in the relevant field. When you see them. We don't know who the expert is. These happen when doctors or professors attest to the quality of a longdistance phone plan. If these criteria are not met. The authority is a rogue scholar who is in the extreme minority in advancing his/her views. Other Examples Television advertisements contain many examples of such fallacies. More often than not. This time the problem is that we don't know who the experts are. they aren't. if they have solid credentials. and so on. We saw that certain criteria had to be met in order to use authorities effectively in arguments. then we have a fallacious appeal to authority. someone who knows more about a particular subject than most people. when firefighters endorse an abdominal exerciser. Here are the conditions under which this can happen: 1. Endorsements like this are common on television. aren't in the minority among experts. or when a figure skater recommends a vitamin supplement. . The authority isn't recognized and respected as an authority in the field. This is another fallacious appeal to authority.
denying women suffrage. Again. ³Because it's always been that way´ to justify a particular claim. usually shows why such are problematic. or maybe a change would be for the best. that it is a good idea to continue to do so.Appeal to Tradition An appeal to tradition assumes that because something has been believed for a long time. Children have always had two months off in the summer. the fact that children have always had two months off does not mean they should continue to do so. or that because something has been practiced a certain way for a long time. etc.. Example We can't start using the schools all year round as a response to the board's new budget. Maybe the practice in question has always been a bad one. If. It doesn't follow from the fact that something has been done a certain way for a long time that we should keep doing it that way. .´ Such commercials are usually guilty of the appeal to tradition. in an argument someone says. that it is true. it is probably an appeal to tradition. Appealing to examples of the practice of slavery. Perhaps the education system needs to change in light of the quality of education and the financial pressures the government has placed on schools. Example Think of how many commercials you have seen in which it is claimed that the product in question is made ³the old fashioned way.
There is no evidence that you performed the criminal act. it is true. This is not the same thing as proving they do not happen. Imagine if this weren't the case and you were on trial for murder. They might happen in a way that does not leave evidence. it doesn't follow that God actually does exist. no one has ever been abducted by an alien. It cannot be used to establish that something is true or false. Example Since there is no physical evidence that aliens have actually abducted people. Only positive evidence can be used to support a conclusion. What does or does not exist in the world is independent of what we can or cannot prove. This is a fallacy because a lack of evidence cannot be used to establish anything .Appeal to Ignorance To claim that since there is no evidence against a particular claim. All the lack of evidence in this case can show is that we can't prove alien abductions actually happen. Similarly. that it must be false. or because it is impossible to prove God does not exist. so God exists. Would it make any sense at all to convict you for murder? Of course not. A lack of physical evidence of alien abduction does not mean that abductions don't happen. It might very well be that even though no one can formulate a compelling argument to prove God does not exist that God doesn't actually exist. yet there is no evidence that you didn't do it either. or to claim that since there is no evidence to support a particular claim. A lack of evidence or proof establishes only that we don't know whether something is true or false. just because no one is smart enough. Example There's no way to prove that God doesn't exist. .
Whether a coin lands heads or tails always has an equal chance. Assuming the coin is not a trick coin. the odds that a particular result will occur next time the event happens are likely to change depending on what has happened in the past. Don't confuse the gambler's fallacy with induction. Previous flips of the coin do not affect future outcomes. in which case repeated occurrences of a result do make it more probable that the same result will happen again in the future. you can draw the inference that she will probably have the same shoes on at the next class and you will probably be correct. . In this case past events do make particular events in the future more likely to happen. Therefore. so in fact there is still an equal chance of the coin coming up heads or tails despite the previous flips.The Gambler's Fallacy The idea that when it comes to events that are purely probabilistic . She probably owns only a few pairs of shoes and has a favourite comfortable pair that she likes to wear to class. with induction we are not making reference to genuinely random events. So. the next time I flip this coin it is more likely to come up heads than tails. this conclusion doesn't follow. If you have seen your English professor arrive at class with the same pair of brown shoes on all term. Induction is the process of making inferences about the future on the basis of what has happened in the past. Example The last 10 times I've flipped this coin it has come up heads. The difference between this case and the coin flipping is that it is not a matter of chance which shoes your professor wears while it is a matter of chance whether a coin land heads or tails.
Remember that the vast majority of people in the western world believed that the Earth was flat. . or even all of them. everyone's doing it. ³But mom.Appeal to the Majority To argue that a proposition is true because ³everyone´ or ³the majority´ of people believe it is true. The majority was mistaken in this case. think that a proposition is true is doesn't make it true. Remember all the times your mother said to you: ³I suppose if everyone thought it would be a good idea to jump off a bridge you would think so too´ in response to the claim.´ The idea here is simply that agreement cannot be taken to be a reliable guide to truth. This is also sometimes called the ³bandwagon fallacy´. The fact that a lot of people.
our betters. It is the desire to have the newest. is worth having. or is something that we should want or desire.Appeal to the Select Few The appeal to the select few is like the appeal to the majority in reverse. Because only a few wealthy or beautiful people can afford or are able to use a certain product. But that has nothing to do with whether or not the product in question is a good one. To invoke this argument is to claim that a proposition is true because not everyone believes it. We want to stand out from ³the herd´ and so want what the few have. are using. so-called best stuff because that's what the few. . we are to think that it is worth having. Affluenza is a good illustration of this fallacy.
q and r. A strong analogy gives us good reason to think that the conclusion is probably true. All arguments from analogy involve an analogy. All they can do is show that the conclusion is probably true or likely to be true. A weak analogy does not give us much reason to think that the conclusion is true. sound or unsound. Because of this. What do arguments from analogy prove? Even when analogies are employed in arguments. arguments from analogy are not evaluated as true or false. A and B share properties p. valid or invalid. Instead.Arguments From Analogy The argument from analogy draws a conclusion about one thing by comparing it with another. The way an argument from analogy works is that it compares two things. In virtue of the similarities. something that is true of the one is likely to be true of the other. A and B. For instance. . An analogy is a comparison between two or more things. they do not prove anything. In virtue of these similarities the argument suggests that A and B are probably similar in a further respect. No argument from analogy can support a proposition with absolute certainty. s. they are evaluated as weak or strong. and points out that A and B are similar.
Let's identify the parts of this argument The primary subject: In this case the primary subject is the world. we must conclude that the universe was also designed. This is what the conclusion of the argument is about. While it is not impossible for the watch to have been created by chance. Since we would conclude from the complexity and organization of a watch that the watch was designed. 3. A Primary Subject The thing the conclusion of the argument tells us about. it seems very improbable. let's employ an example. or the features they have in common. The human body has the ability to regulate itself through a variety of fantastically complicated mechanisms. The Target Property What is said about the primary subject in the conclusion. William Paley offered an argument for the existence of God that is sometimes characterized as an argument from analogy.Components Every argument from analogy has the following components: 1. Imagine that you had never seen a watch before. Now consider the world. 2. The Similarities The respects in which the primary subject and the analogue are being compared. 4. Animal species have just the right features required to survive in their environments. To better acquaint us with analogical arguments. Certain features of the watch would tend lead you to the conclusion that it has an intelligent designer. It is a very complex thing too. . The elements of ecosystems all exist in a perfect balance and harmony. These features make it seem more probable that an intelligent designer is responsible for the watch than the idea that the watch came to be by accident. The clockwork perfection and complex organizational structure of the watch are features that we associate with the idea of intelligent design. The Analogue What the Primary Subject is being compared to. The analogue: The analogue is the thing the primary subject is compared to. The watch in Paley's argument plays this role. Paley thought that in light of these observations. the world is a lot like a watch.
The similarities: The similarities are all of the respects in which the primary subject and the analogue are alike. . Being designed or having an intelligent designer is the target property. These include the idea that both are complex and highly organized systems. The target property: This is what is said about the primary subject in the conclusion. This is the characteristic that is extended from the analogue to the primary subject.
It is in virtue of complexity and precision (in part) that we think watches have designers. highly organized. Hence. seem to be relevant ones. Paley does identify relevant similarities. Although there might in fact be some similarities. in an analogical argument the speaker must provide these similarities in order to motivate the analogy. . this would not be a relevant similarity. arguments from analogy can only be probably true. It is not in virtue of watches (or anything else) being round that we think they were designed. If Paley said that the world is a lot like a watch because both are round. there are identified similarities between the primary subject (the universe) and the analogue (a watch). The second question you should ask is whether or not the similarities are relevant. and behave in a regular manner. In the case of Paley's argument from design. They are both complex. This question must always be answered by considering what is at issue. The similarities Paley did identify do. fishing is very relaxing. No similarities have been identified between the primary subject (fishing) and the analogue (meditating). The first thing to ask when evaluating an argument from analogy is whether or not there are really similarities between the primary subject and the analogue. A strong analogy has a large number of relevant similarities and a small number of relevant dissimilarities. in fact. Hence. A weak analogy has a small number of relevant similarities and a large number of relevant dissimilarities. Example Fishing is like meditating. They can never give us absolutely certain grounds on which to accept a conclusion. This is a bad analogy. The identified similarities used to motivate the analogy must be ones that reinforce the main point. It is in virtue of other features.Evaluating Arguments from Analogy Evaluating arguments from analogy Remember that analogical arguments are evaluated as being either weak or strong arguments. Because the number of similarities and differences is always relative.
or treat features that are really quite different as though they were the same. This is usually the most reliable place to examine an analogical argument. He means that his personality contains many facets. at best.. The watch involves a mechanical complexity of the orientation of its parts. Example Batman is like abortion. Furthermore. Often this will be a matter of judgement and will not be straightforward. In Paley's argument the use of the words ³organized. that the concepts involved are difficult ones to understand. he uses the word ³complicated´ in a different sense. within an acceptable range. When Batman describes himself as complicated. Because of this. Unless one can show that the two things being compared are different in every . Many philosophers have argued that the sort of complexities and regularities identified in the natural world can be adequately explained in other ways than by appeal to an intelligent designer (e. the identified similarities must be understood in the same way. whereas an ecosystem involves a balance between resources needed for species to survive. or at least the same within acceptable limits.´ and ³complex´ seem to be used univocally. Since abortion is immoral. natural selection). The arguer should not equivocate. that his life is very involved and complex. In providing an analogy. The word ³complicated´ then. is not understood univocally in the above argument. Batman and abortion are both complicated. one should ask whether or not the identified similarities treated univocally. Finally. so is Batman. Try to identify differences between the analogue and the primary subject that tend to detract from the idea that we can treat them in similar ways. To say that abortion is complicated is to say that it is a complex issue. whereas the features of a watch cannot. Traditionally.g.Third. These observations can. the kind of complexity of a watch and of an ecosystem is different in a number of ways. Paley's argument is attacked in just this way. the analogy is extremely weak and the conclusion is highly improbable. you should ask whether or not the identified similarities outweigh any relevant dissimilarities. weaken the analogy. that there are many good arguments both for and against abortion.
Finally. as was pointed out earlier. or that its conclusion is false. We would standardize Paley's argument as follows: . it is impossible to prove that an analogical argument is completely unmotivated. It will always be a matter of judgement and there will always be room for discussion in this matter. the question of whether or not the relevant differences between a primary subject and an analogue outweigh the relevant similarities is not an exact science.conceivable way.
Fallacy of Two Wrongs To argue that because one bad case is permitted. similar bad cases should be permitted too. it would be wrong for the speaker to act this way too. There is a logical version and an empirical version. The problem here is the same as it was in the previous example. Rudeness is poor behaviour regardless of who started it. Since B is undesirable. Before we draw this distinction. and stop caring about my classes. Why should I have to be polite when he isn't? If he's at the party this weekend I'm going to give him a taste of his own medicine. and that D is undesirable. The fact that tenured professors might ³slack off´ does not mean that the speaker should do the same when he or she gets tenure. C will lead to D. Consistency demands that if it is wrong for tenured professors to act this way. The fact that Tom was rude to the speaker does not mean that he now has the right to be rude toward Tom. Sometimes there are further intermediate steps in slippery precedents. stop doing research. When I get tenure I'm going to slack off too. Example The last time I saw Tom he was incredibly rude to me. B will happen. we should not allow A to happen in the first place. Slippery Precedent The slippery precedent is also called the ³slippery slope argument´. The basic pattern of argument here is that it is claimed that if A happens. It might be claimed that A will lead to B.Fallacies of Analogy These are bad arguments that make use of comparisons or analogies. Not all slippery precedents are fallacies. Example People who have tenure don't write half as much as sessional instructors and don't put any work into teaching. There are two kinds of slippery slope argument. B will lead to C. Some of these arguments are good ones and some are bad ones. . let's look at another difference between kinds of slippery slope arguments.
The empirical version The empirical version of the slippery precedent is a little different. but it will have disastrous effects. but A will lead to B.The logical version If we allow the initial action A (which seems permissible). It claims that allowing active euthanasia will lead to certain unacceptable consequences. The pressures to cut health costs and make more resources available could lead physicians to administer active euthanasia more liberally. Example If we allow passive euthanasia. In either case the intention of the physician is the death of the patient. Notice how this argument differs from the first one. although there are differences between A and B. we should not adopt active euthanasia as an acceptable practice. the death of the patient. is the same. In the logical version. and in either case the effect. A and B may look different. Rather. there is no relevant conceptual difference between A and B. then we will have to allow active euthanasia too. This version does not claim that A and B are equivalent in any significant way. Allowing active euthanasia of the terminally ill might be morally permissible. because there is no relevant difference between active and passive euthanasia. In the empirical version A and B are different. Also. In this example it is said that if we allow passive euthanasia (A). There is no real difference between allowing someone to die through the cessation of treatment and killing them through active means. this is an example of the logical version of the slippery slope argument. the elderly and handicapped might feel undue pressure to ask that their lives be ended through active intervention. It is thought that allowing A entails allowing B because. but are likely given social attitudes toward the elderly and handicapped and . These consequences are not inevitable or necessary. allowing A (which is permissible) is in fact likely to lead to allowing B (which is impermissible). it claims that due to the social forces and beliefs at work in the relevant group. but are not. then. Example Although passive euthanasia is permissible. then we will have to allow active euthanasia (B). Because the argument is saying that active and passive euthanasia are equivalent. we are logically committed to allowing another action B (which is impermissible).
given the financial problems with the health care system. It is important to emphasize that an argument like this claims B is only likely to follow from allowing A, not that it necessarily will. Whether or not B will follow A depends on a variety of factors, the effects of which are difficult to predict accurately. Provided the argument acknowledges that it is only probable that the bad effects will follow, the argument does not commit a fallacy. When are these kinds of arguments fallacies? The logical version of the fallacy occurs if the actions in question (A and B) are not logically equivalent, but are treated as if they are . If letting die and killing are presented as logically equivalent, when in fact they are not, then the argument would commit the slippery slope fallacy. This version of the fallacy also occurs if the speaker simply assumes A and B are conceptually equivalent without offering any reasons to think that they are. To evaluate logical versions of slippery slope arguments, ask if the items under discussion really are equivalent. The more relevant dissimilarities you can identify between A and B, the more likely the argument commits the fallacy. The empirical version occurs if the argument simply assumes that the negative consequences will result, or if the social factors it appeals to are irrelevant to whether or not the unwanted consequences are likely to follow. Example Sure, raising taxes next year will pay for some important social programs. But if we let the government raise taxes next year, they'll raise them again and again in the years to come and soon we'll be paying outrageous taxes. This is a fallacious version of the empirical slippery slope argument. It claims that allowing the government to raise taxes this year will lead to further tax increased in years to come. The argument is fallacious because it merely assumes that these later tax increases will happen. No justification is given to think that this is in fact likely. Example This is ridiculous. What is affirmative action but a form of discrimination? This would be an example of the fallacious version of a logical slippery slope argument. Notice that the speaker is suggesting that there is no real difference between affirmative action policies and discrimination. That explains why it is the logical version. It is a fallacy because the
speaker does not give us any reason to think that these two things are in fact equivalent.
This occurs when one ignores the fact that many small differences that are insignificant on their own can, taken together, constitute a significant difference. Example Killing a foetus is just as much an act of murder as killing an infant. There's no real difference between a three-month-and-one-day-old foetus, or a three-month-and-two-day-old fetus, and so on. So where do you draw the line between a three-month old fetus and an infant? What the argument neglects is that, while there are no individual differences that, from one day to the next, mark a significant difference between a fetus and an infant, many small changes can, taken together over a long period of time, constitute an important difference. To evaluate arguments like these, that appeal to grey areas, or claim that it is difficult to ³draw the line´, ask whether, despite these difficulties, clear distinctions can be made. One might not notice the change in hair colour of the guy who uses Just For Men hair colouring from one day to the next, but that doesn't mean there isn't a difference between his having grey hair and his having black hair.
the identified differences should be negatively relevant to the possession of the target property. We feel pain. The speaker's boyfriend is shy while the other's is a ladies man. with one difference. Example My boyfriend is nothing like yours. it is plausible to say that brain size has something to do with the ability to feel pain. except that the differences are used to support the claim that . Primary subject: Analogue: Differences: The speaker's boyfriend The other person's boyfriend The speaker's boyfriend has been honest while the other's has not. In the example above. the argument appeals to differences. Example Fish are unlike us since they have small brains and are not mammals. whereas mine has always been honest with me. it is unlikely he has cheated on me. We are mammals and fish are not. Feeling pain In the case of a negative analogy argument. but it is likely that fish do not. Negative analogy arguments contain almost all the same elements as arguments from analogy. In light of a set of differences between the primary subject and the analogue. Furthermore. Instead of identifying similarities between the primary subject and the analogue. Primary subject: Analogue: Differences: Target Property: Fish Us (human beings) We have large brains and fish have small brains.Negative Analogy Arguments These arguments rely on a disanalogy between two things. Yours has lied to you throughout your relationship. Not cheating on his partner Target property: Negative analogy arguments are standardized just like arguments from analogy. since your boyfriend was a real ladies' man and mine has always been shy. it is argued that there is likely to be a further difference.
.the primary subject and the analogue are not alike.
Example All of the hot dogs I have ever eaten have made me sick so all hot dogs make me sick. Like arguments from analogy. . but not all of the members of the class hot dogs . This is because the first alternative would be falsified if there were even one hot dog that didn't make me ill when I ate it. The conclusion is therefore weaker in the second claim but is thereby more likely to be true. The second formulation of the generalization allows for some counterexamples and so is not so easily falsified. The Universal Generalization The first kind of argument from experience is called the ³universal generalization´. Generalizations like the second are less likely to be falsified. or make particular predictions about the future in light of what has happened in the past. Remember that a class is simply a group of things that share a particular characteristic. not certainly true. As a general rule. Example All of the hot dogs I have ever eaten have made me sick so most hot dogs make me sick. Both of the above examples are universal generalizations. arguments from experience can have conclusions that are only probably. A universal generalization appeals to the experiences someone has had of some members of a class of objects to support a conclusion about all or most members of that class.Arguments from Experience Arguments from experience involve the attempt to justify a general conclusion on the basis of observations. since the claim is about most . universal generalizations of the second type are preferable for this reason.
In our examples so far the samples are all the kinds of hot dogs I have ever ingested or all the movies starring Pauley Shore I have seen. Notice that in this case the conclusion that is drawn is about one thing (a particular film). Example All of the movies starring Pauley Shore I have ever seen have been awful. and in the second it is the property of being awful. The target property is always the thing you are saying about an object or class in the conclusion of a generalization.The Generalization to a Particular A second. Both kinds of arguments contain the following necessary elements: The Sample The sample is made up of all the things we have experienced or know about that belong to a particular class or group of objects. While the universal generalization draws a conclusion about a lot of things. In our first example that would be all of the kinds of hot dogs I have never tried. The Population The population is made up of the things we have yet to experience. In the first example this is the property of making me sick. The generalization to a particular appeals to the experiences someone has had of many members of a class to support a conclusion about a single. In the second it would be the Pauley Shore movie I am about to see. this movie will be awful. unexperienced member of that class. The Category The category is the respect in which the sample and the population are similar. In the first example the category is hot dogs and in the second the category is Pauley Shore movies . related argument from experience is called the ³generalization to a particular´. This movie stars Pauley Shore. Target Property The target property is the characteristic that is being extended from the sample to the population. . the generalization to a particular draws a conclusion about only one thing: something that has not yet been experienced. Therefore. This is like the similarities in an analogical argument.
there are certain things to look for. A similar question to this is the following: Is the generalization hasty? A generalization is hasty when it is based on few experiences. Therefore. if I said the same thing and had eaten hundreds of hot dogs. This involves a hasty generalization because my own experience is very limited. I've met a number of native Calgarians who have become antagonistic toward me once I have told them where I'm from. the less likely it is that the conclusion is true. Is the category appropriate? Does the category bear an appropriate relationship to the target property? If not.´ This involves providing testimony that extends beyond the personal experience of the speaker. or when the population is too small to support the generalization. the more likely it is that the conclusion is true. The smaller the sample. Example Everybody I've met who is named Tom is a jerk. my conclusion would seem a lot more probable. or questions to ask when you evaluate generalizations. or that other kinds of hot dogs might not effect me in that way. all Toms are probably jerks. Example Calgarians hate people from Toronto. This conclusion is not given very strong support because there is no real . then it uses a good category and the conclusion is more likely to be true. On the other hand. The larger the sample. then the generalization makes use of a bad category and is more likely to be false.Evaluating Generalizations As with analogical arguments. If so. it is not very likely that the conclusion of my argument is true. It is quite possible that my experience with that one hot dog was unusual. Is the sample adequate? The first thing you should ask about is the sample size. To be more plausible I'd have to have had many such experiences. such as having entire classes of students boo when I say that I'm from Toronto. ³ All of the hot dogs I have ever eaten have made me sick so all hot dogs make me sick´ but have only ever eaten one hot dog in my entire life. Making such an error often occurs when one employs what is called ³anecdotal evidence. If I were to say.
This example makes use of a bad category. We do not wait to see how our children behave and then give them names that reflect certain character traits. and hence.connection between what name a person has and what their character is like. . the conclusion is very weak.
The Population The population is made up of the unexperienced cases. A Similarity . This is usually expressed as a percentage. The Elements of the Statistical Generalization Because statistical arguments are a kind of generalization. In our example this would be the last 5 classes Jessica taught. In our example this is the next class that Jessica will teach. In our example it is that 5% of the students will fail the course. A Target Property This is the characteristic or group of characteristics extended from the sample to the population. Example The last five times Jessica taught this course 5% of the students failed each time. The population is always what you want to learn something about in a statistical argument. Statistical generalizations do not attempt to say anything about all members of a group or about an individual member of a group. In every statistical argument there is: The Sample This is made up of the experienced cases. This differs from the universal generalization and the generalization to a particular because it is concerned with how frequently a property or characteristic is likely to appear in the population. The next time she teaches this course we can expect that 5% of those students will receive Fs. they contain similar elements.Statistical Arguments The Statistical Generalization The statistical generalization uses knowledge about how one or more characteristics are distributed among an experienced group to draw a conclusion about how those characteristics will be distributed among the members of an unexperienced group.
This is expressed by saying that the sample is representative of the population. If the university has raised its admission standards this year. The idea is that there won't be important differences between the sample and the population that would undermine the conclusion of the argument.Instead of a category. This is because the sample and the population must be alike. statistical arguments invoke a similarity. . In our example about Jessica the sample is representative only if the kind of students she will teach next year do not vary in certain ways from the kind of students she has taught before. then the quality of the students she will have should be better. The kind of similarities identified are extremely important because they have a direct bearing on the strength of the conclusion. and this has a good chance of affecting the distribution of the grades in her class.
Was the sample big enough? The larger the sample is. Because you have stumbled upon a very specific segment of the population made up of university students. Is the sample representative? As we saw above. Stratified Sample A sample that is already known to reflect certain classifications or groups of people in a population and will therefore be representative of the group in question. the stronger the conclusion of the argument. have come across ten people who are on their way to the Dean's office to raise a complaint about the cost of tuition. The selection is random when each member of the population has an equal chance of being selected. If you stand outside the Dean's office and poll ten people. your results will not likely be representative. This is partly why random selection is so important. it will reflect any relevant differences between the people asked. What kinds of individuals compose the sample? If you are conducting a study on whether people prefer vegemite or marmite . by chance. If a study wants to learn something about men's attitudes toward their prostates. If the sample is sufficiently large. since most people in that population won't know anything about these. then the study shouldn't be made up of interviews with ten year old girls. Is the sample a homogeneous group or a diverse one? If the conclusion you want to draw is about a very broad group. a population of people from Waterloo is probably not the best sample to use. . then your sample needs to reflect the heterogeneity of that group. Imagine that you decide to poll university students to determine what percentage of them thinks tuition is too expensive. it is very important that the sample be representative of the population.Evaluating Statistical Arguments Questions About the Sample When you encounter statistical arguments there are questions you should ask about the components of the generalization and about the way the data were collected. like North Americans. it is possible that you might.
Imagine if you used a questionnaire that asked the following question: . you can imagine that people might have been more reluctant to be open and honest about their sexual experiences. The results must be repeatable. What kinds of questions were asked? Questions must be specific and as unambiguous as possible. The data were collected by means of anonymous questionnaires. were they conducted face to face? Were identities kept anonymous? These factors can have a profound effect on the results. like a white. However. The results showed that a large number of men and women had experimented with same-sex relations as well as multiple partners. questionnaires. IQ tests purport to measure intelligence.. a number of people have suggested that IQ tests involve so many cultural biases and assumptions (in terms of the kinds of questions asked and the expected ³correct´ responses) that they don't actually measure intelligence. etc? If interviews. Suppose you want to test the drinking habits of university students. Had Kinsey relied on interviews with subjects face to face. middle class.e. the researcher must provide an operational definition for any key concepts. An example of an instrument the validity of which people frequently question is IQ testing. much like a scientific experiment. Is the instrument valid? An instrument is valid if it actually measures what it claims to. male conception of intelligence. Scientific experiments are often performed several times to ensure that the end results are the same. The goal is to make sure that the instrument used to detect the result is working properly. Approximately 50 years ago Alfred Kinsey conducted research on the sexual activities of people in the United States. They measure something more specific. Is the instrument reliable? A reliable instrument is one that provides consistent results under the same conditions. Important concepts must be operationalized (i. Comparing the results of different tests using different instruments on the same subjects tests this.Measuring the Data There are also questions you should ask about how the data were measured. What was the measuring instrument used? Were the instruments interviews.
By providing an operational definition of the main concept in a questionnaire (e. you must operationalized these concepts and ensure that the subjects work with the same understanding of what it is to be a light drinker as you. Example Is your spouse/living partner supportive of your career? Yes_______ No_______ How does he show his support? The problems with this question are as follows. or respond falsely. People may take offense to the assumptions that have been made by the researcher and not respond. If a researcher has not taken care to avoid such problems. moderate. moderate. are you? That is a loaded question. it will seem as though the questions are oddly skewed to male respondents. the data . rather than honestly. it offers only a ³yes´ or ³no´ response to what is a fairly complex question. being a light or a heavy drinker). Clearly I am trying to encourage a negative answer. notice that the second question asks. or people may be led to answer in the way they are expected to. or heavy drinker? The problem with this question is that the key terms are not defined. Loaded questions are ones that are tailored to encourage a particular response. The effects of loaded questions can be numerous. Questionnaires and interviews can. use loaded questions. which has the effect of encouraging a ³yes´ response to the first part.g. the follow up question assumes an affirmative answer to the first question. or heavy drinker consumes on average in a week. Individual conceptions of alcohol consumption might differ significantly from yours. you might specify how many drinks a light. To prevent this. the results of the survey will not depend on how the subjects interpret what it is to be a light or a heavy drinker.. ³How does he show his support?´ If this question was not intended only for female subjects. moderate. Example You're not going to have another drink. Avoid loaded questions. Finally. Second. This means that the individual filling out the questionnaire must define what it is to be a light. or heavy drinker. First. There are many ways in which one's spouse may be both supportive and unsupportive.Do you consider yourself to be a light. in more subtle ways. For instance.
in evaluating a statistical argument. one should ask whether all of these criteria have been met.becomes unreliable. Hence. .
we should clarify a few things about the nature of causal relationships. When two things are correlated we see them happening together.Causal Arguments The final kind of argument we are going to look at is the causal argument. I seem to be picking out two objects: a window and a brick. we cannot conclude with any certainty that A in fact caused B. then events like A must be correlated with events like B. Although we frequently talk about causal relationships as holding between objects. A causal argument draws the conclusion that one thing (or group of things) lead to another thing (or group of things). it is the impact of the brick against the window that causes the window to break. ³The brick caused the window to break´ I am describing a causal relationship. this is not quite correct. Second. To assume that it did is to commit what is called the ³post hoc fallacy´. It is generally thought that in causal relationships effects follow upon their causes. assumes that we are talking about two kinds of events that happen lots of times. and B must follow upon A. but they cannot precede their causes in time. Third. if we think A causes B. Both of these things (the impact of the brick and the breaking of the window) are changes that involve the identified objects. If we witness an event A and see that it is followed by another event B. the sorts of things that can be causes or effects are usually thought to be events. or simultaneously with them. causes and effects are correlated. Hence. then A and B must be correlated. The changes are usually referred to as ³events´. one event (the impact of the brick against the glass) caused another event (the shattering of the window). This means that effects can occur either after their causes. If A is the cause of B. To say this. . These are necessary conditions for a causal relation. of course. The problem is that it isn't just the brick as such that makes something happen. If I say. The Nature of Causal Relations Before we look at causal arguments. Repeated correlations are important for justifying the claim that one thing caused another. Hence.
Even this can fail to be enough to justify the claim that A and B are causally related. menaing. Jumping from correlation to cause Another common fallacy in causal arguments is the fallacy of jumping from correlation to cause. Let's make this more precise by employing the following definition: Two properties or events are correlated if and only if occurrences of or changes in one are accompanied by occurrences of or changes in the other. To argue that A caused B we need more than the observation that B happened directly after A. we need to see that A and B are correlated. In other words. . Before we explore this problem.´ Simply because one event follows another in temporal sequence doesn't necessarily mean they are causally connected. let's say a little more about correlations. however. We need to see that events like A are always followed by events like B. ³after this because of this. Example Just because three babies were born with three eyes after the plastics factory burned down is not itself sufficient reason to conclude that the burning of the factory caused the birth defects. Earlier we saw that two things are correlated if they happen together. There might be other factors responsible for the defects that happened to coincide with the fire.Causal Fallacies Post Hoc Fallacy The name for this fallacy is taken from the Latin post hoc ergo propter hoc .
Example If prostate cancer (A) occurs rarely in male children (B) but frequently in men over 50. Without further information there is no way to decide between these two possibilities. Example Drug use and poverty are positively correlated. C. but it is unlikely that one causes the other. the myth that the stork delivers babies is based on such a correlation. Cycles of births in a town just happened to coincide with the migration of storks through the area. In the case of many positive correlations. 2. Of course. the correlation might be a coincidence. and there may be a causal relation between them. They might both owe their occurrences to a third factor (a common cause) such as brain development. or that B caused A. Example If there are more occurrences of breast cancer (A) among Canadian women (B) than among American women (non-Bs). there might very well be a causal relationship between A and B. people began to suggest that these events weren't just correlated.Kinds of Correlations There are two kinds of correlations 1. why can't we conclude that if there is a correlation between A and B. In the case of any correlation. A caused B? There are three principle reasons for this. So now that we've seen what it means for two things to be correlated. Positive Correlations There are more occurrences of A among members of B than among non-Bs. but that one caused the other. 3. Negative Correlations There are fewer occurrences of A among members of B than among non-Bs. Because these two things happened together many times. Example Manual dexterity is correlated with intelligence. and what kinds of correlations there are. 1. 2. in which case A neither causes B nor is caused by B. Either one is possible. but it could be that A caused B. For instance. In any correlation between A and B there might be a third factor. then A and B are positively correlated. then being a child is negatively correlated with having prostate cancer. we know . but poverty might cause drug use or drug use might cause poverty. that causes A and B.
that storks don't deliver babies. The control group must be as similar as possible to the test group. This is a prime example of the fallacy of jumping from correlation to cause. with . alcohol and violence do co-exist. Example Is there a correlation between women with silicone breast implants and women who develop connective tissue disorder? Even if many women with breast implants develop connective tissue disorder. It is not enough to notice that two things happen together frequently to have a correlation that will support a causal connection. They do go together. The consumption of alcohol at the societal level does contribute to the incidence and prevalence of violence among certain individuals. In this case it would be women with silicone breast implants. A Test Group The members of the test group possess the property whose causes or effects we want to study. To make things worse. 2. This requires a comparison between two groups: 1." (From: Testimony before the Parliamentry Committee of Violence Against Women). We need to determine whether or not connective tissue disorder occurs in high numbers of women without breast implants. The above passage asserts that because alcohol and violence ³go together´ or ³co-exist´ that alcohol consumption causes violence. this might not establish a genuine correlation. A Control Group A group that does not possess the property whose causes or effects are under investigation. Example "Research shows that while alcohol is neither a sufficient nor a necessary cause for violence. identifying a genuine correlation is itself a difficult task. Establishing a correlation To establish a positive correlation between X and Y we need to see that Y occurs more frequently among members of X than among non-members of X. It is very difficult to establish that two events are causally connected rather than merely correlated. The reason that alcohol and violence ³go together´ could be explained in a number of other ways besides saying the first causes the second.
and not some other factor. not that it does for certain. not certain. just like an argument from experience. the conclusion can only be shown to be probably true. of the same general level of health as the women before they had their implants. . If the participants in the study differ in significant ways. and so on. then we have a correlation between having breast implants and developing connective tissue disorder. or five year old girls. If we discover a significantly higher occurrence of connective tissue disorder among the test group than the control group. the control group will not consist of men. In any causal argument. The results of such a study can show that it is likely that breast implants can cause connective tissue disorder. or an analogical argument. For a study on breast implants. but women in the same age-group as those with breast implants. it is difficult to establish that it is the property in question that is responsible for different results between the test and control groups.the exception of lacking the property being studied.
that gives rise to differences between the two groups later on. The participants in the study (both in the test and control groups) must be representative of the population. there are different questions we should ask to evaluate causal arguments. Other conditions are not controlled. All participants must be made aware of any potential risks created by exposure to the causal factor. if you wanted to study whether or not the use of cellular phones causes brain cancer. you need to find people who already use cell phones on a regular basis and monitor their health. The experiment is one that can be repeated with the same . This involves a tremendous level of control over every aspect of the lives of the test and control groups. since it might be harmful. For instance. This is most commonly used when it would be unethical to expose research subjects to the causal factor under consideration. then there isn't much point in having women participate in the study. such as rats. If the drug is one like Viagra. expose them to cell phone microwaves and then see if they develop brain cancer. The group of subjects is divided into the test group and the control group. Instead. These kinds of experiments are only performed on non-human animals. It is not feasible or ethical to give experimenters that much control over human beings. Also. you cannot gather test subjects. or find out how many people who have developed brain cancer used cell phones. Replication For the results of an experiment to be reliable.Types of Studies Depending on the kind of study that has been done. and not something else. Correlational Research In the case of correlational research the researcher does not control any of the conditions. The test group is given the causal factor and the control group is not. the results must replicable. the members of the control group must be as similar as possible to the members of the test group to ensure that it is the causal factor. Control Group/Test Group Experiment The researcher controls the causal factor (the substance the causal effects of which are the object of the study). Controlled Laboratory Experiment In this kind of experiment the researcher controls all of the conditions. This kind of research simply involves collecting data.
to their body language.results under the same conditions. not because he or she was actually caused to be drunk by the substance in question. If the results cannot be replicated. Perhaps you saw one of your friends given something that he or she was told was alcohol but wasn't. Double-blindness In a double-blind experiment neither the participants nor the experimenters know who is in the control group and who is in the test group. The main aim is to avoid the placebo effect . A famous example of such cuing is the case of Clever Hans . You might have experienced this when you were younger. participants do not know whether they belong to the control group or the test group. Experimenters can cue test subjects in very subtle ways. Clever Hans was a horse that was thought to be able to do arithmetic by being asked a problem and stamping out the solution with one of his hooves. to stamp his foot the correct number of times. Blindness In a blind experiment. from the kinds of questions they ask. It took a long time before one researcher discovered that Clever Hans was receiving very subtle cues in body language not only from his owner. . The purpose of blind experiments is to prevent subjects from affecting the results because of their expectations. This occurs when someone who receives a placebo (an inert substance given to the control group) reports feeling certain effects because he or she believes they are receiving the causal agent. Many skeptics were convinced when they tested the horse's abilities. and to prevent experimenters from tainting results either by cuing test subjects or by looking at data with a set of expectations. This was because of your friend's expectations. There are a number of way in which experimenters control experimental conditions. but from other experimenters as well. then it is likely that some of the conditions were not properly controlled and that these affected the results. Your friend nevertheless began acting drunk. This is to prevent the placebo effect among the test subjects.
6. What is the causal claim being tested? What is the sample? What is the population? What kind of study is involved? What is the test group? What is the control group? Are the test and control groups similar? How are the results measured? Let's try an example. 52%. the other two groups. Example Pop music may help schoolchildren pass exams. The Causal Claim Being Tested That pop music may help students pass exams. The students who listened to the pop group scored 56%. This should be more specific.000 Students.Evaluating Causal Arguments When you encounter a causal argument.000 students in 250 schools were randomly split into three groups. The author of the study cited a California study in which adults performed better on a similar test while listening to Mozart. while taking a test on spatial reasoning. the pop group Blur. 3. In a nationwide British study. They listened to either Mozart. or a radio chat show. 5. 11. The difference approached significance. 8. 7. here are the kinds of questions you should ask in order to appreciate how the argument works: 1. and said that this may show that adults process music differently. 4. 2. Grade school students? High school. The Population Students. university? Kind of Study Control group/test group experiment. . The Sample 11.
gender. We have not been given any information about this. So we should wonder about how representative the sample is of the population. etc. given the causal claim tested. you should be able to offer an overall evaluation of the causal argument: Overall Evaluation The size of the sample is good. in light of all this. One problem we have already seen is that neither the sample nor the population is well defined in terms of age. Control Group Any two groups serve as a control group for the third. but we know nothing of their ages. In this case. Measuring Instrument The scores on tests on spatial reasoning. The results might be more plausible if a silence condition were used in one. Finally. in light of the above problems. They are similar to the extent that they are all students of the same nationality. We should wonder about the control groups used. the groups that listen to Mozart and talk-radio are the control groups. Are the Test Group and Control Groups Similar? This is difficult to say. were less distracted by it than by Mozart or talk-radio. Does the study give the conclusion strong support? It seems not. but since they probably like Blur . Perhaps the students scored more poorly than they would have without any background noise at all. It is quite large. and the number of schools that participated in the study is high enough to be representative of schoolchildren in general. Without a more definite result there is little reason to think that there is a causal relationship between music and . it was claimed that the differences between the test and control groups merely approached significance. Furthermore. It is unlikely we can generalize to all kinds of tests (exams) on the basis of how the students score on spatial reasoning. Only one kind of test was administered.Test Group Students who write the test while listening to Blur (though the other two groups could each be the test group as well).
What about the claim about the differences between adults and children? Do the test results suggest that adults and children process music differently? Probably not. in which case what the study more plausibly shows is that adults are less distracted by Mozart than students are. It is more likely that adults are more familiar with Mozart than with Blur. .passing exams.
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