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Arguments in

Philosophy
Introduction to Philosophy

Arguments

Philosophy is the art of constructing and


evaluating arguments

Its all about the argument

Arguments are meant to be convincing


So philosophers must be sensitive to what
makes an argument convincing

Or not

Thinking Critically

First step: Think Critically

What is the argument trying to say?


Why does the argument succeed, or not?

The form of the argument

Whats good, bad, or indifferent?

Whats the point?


How do we get to the point?

Structure

How do the parts of the argument fit together?


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General Structure

In general, arguments consist of:

The thesis or position argued for

The reasons why the conclusion should be


accepted

The conclusion

The premises

Usually this is written in standard form:


Premise 1 (Justification)
Premise 2 (Justification)
Therefore, Conclusion (Justification)
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Two kinds of argument

In general, there are two kinds of argument:

Deductive Arguments
Inductive Arguments

These arguments work (slightly) differently,


so theyre evaluated differently

But lets be more specific

A statement is any unambiguous declarative sentence


about a fact (or non-fact) about the world.
It says that something is (or isnt) the case.
An argument is a series of statements meant to
establish a claim.
A claim or conclusion is the statement whose truth an
argument is meant to establish.
A statements truth value is either true or false.
All statements have a truth value. A statement is false
when what it says about the world is not actually the
case. A statement is true when what it says about the
world is actually the case.
A premise is a statement that is used in an argument to
establish a conclusion.
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Deductive Arguments

A deductive argument is:


VALID if its premises necessarily lead to its
conclusion.
That is, if you were to accept that the premises are all
true, you must accept that the conclusion is true.
SOUND if it is valid and you accept that all its
premises are true.
A good, convincing argument is sound.
A bad argument is any other kind of argument.
VALIDITY + TRUE PREMISES* = SOUND
*or, at least, accepted premises
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Examples

All people are mortal. Socrates is a person.


Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

All people are mortal. My dog is mortal. Therefore,


my dog is a person.

Invalid.

Oranges are green. All green things make me sick.


Therefore, oranges make me sick.

Sound

Valid. Not sound.

Whales know how to play hockey. Therefore,


Canadians like winter.

Invalid.
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Notice

Validity does not depend on the truth of the


premises.

All people are mortal. My dog is mortal.


Therefore, my dog is a person.
The premises are true. But the argument is still
invalid.

Soundness does not depend on the truth of


the conclusion.

An argument can be bad even if the conclusion is


obviously true.
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Evaluating Deductive
Arguments

Good arguments must be sound.

If you want to accept of an argument, you would


have to show both validity and soundness

Bad arguments can be bad in two ways:

Invalid

You can show that the conclusion does not follow from
the premises

Unsound

You can show that at least one premise is unacceptable

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Inductive Arguments

Inductive arguments are not truth preserving

Even in a good inductive argument where the


premises are true, the conclusion does not have
to be true.
At most, the conclusion is most likely true.

Inductive arguments are meant to make


conclusions more likely or more acceptable.

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Inductive Arguments

An inductive argument is:


STRONG if its premises make the conclusion
probable

That is, if you were to accept the premises as true, then


you would have to accept that the conclusion was probably
true

COGENT if it is strong and its premises are


accepted
A good, convincing argument is cogent.
STRENGTH + TRUE PREMISES* = COGENT
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Examples

This cooler contains 30 cans. 25 cans selected at


random contained soda. Therefore, all the cans
probably contain soda.

This cooler contains 30 cans. 3 cans selected at


random contained soda. Therefore, all the cans
probably contain soda.

Cogent

Weak

Every monkey Ive seen (over 500) has blue teeth.


Therefore, the next monkey I see will probably have
blue teeth.

Strong, but not cogent


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Notice

Strength admits of degrees.

An argument can be stronger or weaker


Usually, the more evidence available, the stronger
the argument

Strength does not depend on the truth of the


premises

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Evaluating Inductive
Arguments

Good arguments must be cogent.

If you want to accept of an argument, you would


have to show both strength and cogency

Bad arguments can be bad in two ways:

Weak

You can show that the premises does not make the
conclusion more probable

Not cogent

You can show that at least one premise is unacceptable

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Argument by Analogy

One particular kind of inductive argument is


an Argument by Analogy

Comparison of two or more things


Concludes that they share characteristic(s)

Example:

Because they share other characteristic(s)


Watches exhibit order, function, and design. They were
also created by a creator. The universe exhibits order,
function, and design. Therefore, the universe probably
was created by a creator.

Evaluated like other inductive arguments


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In Practice

Identify the conclusion

Identify the premises

What is the claim?


How is the claim supported?
Often, we first have to get rid of anything unnecessary
mere rhetorical flourishes, repetitions, and irrelevancies.

Reformulate the argument

Try to put it into standard form


Often, well have to add premises that are implied but not
stated.
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In Practice

Identify the form of the argument

How are the premises supposed to lead to the


conclusion?

Deductive? Inductive?
Assumptions? Subarguments?

(This will help us add/delete premises)

Evaluate the argument

Valid? Sound?
Strong? Cogent?
WHY?
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Example

For Death is to be as it were nothing, and to be


deprived of all sensation... And if no sensation
remains, then death is like a dreamless sleep. In
this case, death will be a blessing. For, if any one
compares such a night as this, in which he so
profoundly sleeps as not even to see a dream, with
the other nights and days of his life, and should
declare how many he had passed better and more
pleasantly than this night, I think that not only a
private man, but even the great king himself, would
find so small a number that they might be easily
counted.
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Example

For Death is to be deprived of all sensation...


if no sensation remains, then death is like a
dreamless sleep. ...death will be a
blessing. ...if any one compares such a night
[of sleep without dreams]... with the other
nights and days of his life, and should declare
how many he had passed better and more
pleasantly than this night, I think.. [he] would
find so small a number...
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Example

Death is to be deprived of all sensation.


If no sensation remains, death is like a
dreamless sleep.
Anyone will consider a dreamless sleep
better than most days and nights.
--Death is a blessing.

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Example

Death is to be deprived of all sensation.


If no sensation remains, death is like a dreamless
sleep.
Death is like a dreamless sleep.
Anyone will consider a dreamless sleep better than
most days and nights.
Anyone will consider death better than most days
and nights.
Anything that is better than most days and nights is
a blessing.
--Death is a blessing.
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Example

Death is to be deprived of all sensation. (Assumption)


If no sensation remains, death is like a dreamless sleep.
(Assumption)
Death is like a dreamless sleep. (Conclusion from 1 and 2)
Anyone will consider a dreamless sleep better than most days
and nights. (Assumption)
Anyone will consider death better than most days and nights.
(Conclusion from 3 and 4)
Anything that is better than most days and nights is a blessing.
(Assumption)
--Death is a blessing. (From 3, 5, and 6)

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