Michael Daniel 10-15-2006 ARQ Chapters 6 & 7 The title of Chapter 6 in ARQ is ‘What are the descriptive assumptions?

’ and the title of chapter 7 is ‘Are there any fallacies in the reasoning?’. They provide advice on how to critically analyze an argument. In Chapter 6 we are introduced to the idea of descriptive assumptions. A descriptive assumption is a belief about the way the world is. The example they use in the book is, “You will learn a lot from Professor Starr. His students all rave about his lectures.” This is a poor argument because it is incomplete. By describing the fact that Professor Starr’s students all rave about his lectures the speaker is assuming that you connect the idea of rave reviews with an informative quality. The book then says that this argument assumes that, “To learn a lot means to absorb material from a lecture.” I don’t see how the book made that leap. I think that the book is incorrect there. From the statement given, the speaker could believe that learning is any number of things. The writer used his own bias to infer this definition. The book defines a descriptive assumption as, “An unstated belief about how the world is, or will become.” Descriptive assumptions are important because if you want to analyze an argument then you must take it apart. If you don’t know to look for descriptive assumptions it is very easy to miss an important unspoken assumption in the argument. If that were to happen then your analysis would be incorrect. While it is important to analyze descriptive assumptions we should avoid analyzing trivial assumptions, such as the assumption that the argument and the

conclusion are connected. In that case what really matters is how they are connected, not whether one leads to another logically. We should avoid using descriptive assumptions in our writing. We can do this by avoiding using incomplete arguments. Chapter 7 is about fallacies in the reasoning of arguments. In order to find fallacies in reasoning we first need to identify the conclusion and the propositions supporting it. If any of the supporting propositions are false then they weaken the conclusion. Fallacious propositions fall into the following categories: erroneous assumptions, distracting information that attempts to increase the importance of irrelevant information, and providing a proposition that depends on the conclusion already being true. There are many types of fallacies and the rest of chapter 7 gives examples of some of the most common ones. Ad hominem fallacies will attack or insult an individual instead of directly attacking their argument. Slippery slope fallacies make the assumption that if proposition A is accepted then proposition B must also be accepted when in fact that is not necessarily the case. Searching for perfect solutions is a fallacy that assumes that if a solution does not completely solve a problem then it should not be attempted. Equivocation fallacies confuse the meaning of a key term used in an argument in order to weaken that argument. Appeal to popularity fallacies will try to justify a claim by stating that most people agree with it. Appeal to questionable authority fallacies use an authority to support a claim when that authority does not have specialized expertise in the argument at hand. Straw person fallacies distort the opponents position in order to weaken it. Either-or fallacies assume only two alternatives when more exist.