Argument Analysis #1
You are requested to submit your assignment using UTORsubmit: https://submit.utm.utoronto.ca
Your submission will be integrated with Turnitin to check for plagiarism. You do not need to create a turnitin account, as this will be done automatically via UTORsubmit.
If you choose not to use UTORsubmit, please see the course syllabus for the alternative.
Your argument analysis must be submitted on or before March 13 (11:59PM).
If you get me a draft of your argument analysis by 5PM on March 6, I will give you some feedback on it (I won’t correct your errors of written expression).
Your argument analysis should be clearly expressed in essay form. I am asking you to evaluate the argument presented in the editorial you choose, indicating what its conclusion and major premises are, how logically strong you think it is, and how adequate, relevant, and acceptable its premises are. If this is applicable, please also indicate how you think the argument could be improved (for instance does it have missing premises? Does it use an irrational technique of persuasion?) Make sure you use the concepts discussed in class to analyze your argument. For instance, does it use a form of induction we have studied in class?). You do not need to do original research to evaluate the argument you choose, but should indicate what information you would be seeking to determine the acceptability of the premises and from what kind of sources. Please note that if you choose the first editorial, you must also diagram the argument.
The expected length of your assignment is approximately 750 words.
You are expected to cite your sources via a reference page (the references are not included in the approximate length). You may use any major form of citation (eg. APA, Chicago, MLA) but should be consistent and should follow the rules listed in a citation guide. Some citation guides are available here: https://guides.library.ualberta.ca/citing
You should review the Rubric posted on the course Blackboard site to see how you will be evaluated, as this should give you guidance as to what is expected of your argument analysis.
PHL247 Test 2 Review
Phase 1: identify the premises and the conclusion of the argument
sorting out what’s not relevant to the argument
involves disambiguation and clarification
principle of charity should be employed through the process
Following the conventions:
(1) The conclusion is underlined and labelled by C.
(2) Premises are enclosed in brackets and labelled by P1, P2, etc.
(3) Missing premises/conclusion are labelled by MP1, MP2, etc., or MC.
Phase 2: identify the structure of the argument
Figuring out how the premises are supposed to support the conclusion
Involves identifying the structure of the argument (simple or complex)
Involved diagramming the argument (eg T/V structure)
Missing Premises and Conclusions:
Many of the arguments we encounter are incomplete, in the sense that if we consider only what the author says, we will be forced to assume that the speaker has left something out.
Reports of Arguments:
a report of an argument is a statement that says that so-and-so argued in a certain way.
Ex: John refuses to vote in elections because he believes that all politicians are dishonest.
some arguments are both argument and report of an argument.
An explanation is an attempt to show why or how something happens.
Ex: My car won’t start because its out of gas.
The Structure of Arguments
The structure of an argument is important because it could tell us how the premises are intended to support the conclusion and can give some of the information needed to undertake a critical assessment of the argument.
this is done graphically through a Tree Diagram:
• Consists of one premise and one conclusion
– Ex: (P) When Jim quit playing the trumpet, he gave it to his younger brother.
(C) Hence, Jim won’t be able to lend his trumpet to Andrew.
• An argument with two or more premises, none of which offers significant support for the conclusion by itself; but all the premises do support the conclusion when working together, in combination.
• Ex: (P1) Every medical doctor has had to tell someone that a loved one has died.
(P2) Beth is a medical doctor
(C) Therefore, Beth has had to tell someone that a loved one has died.
• An argument with two or more premises, each of which offer some support for the conclusion by itself; in combination, the support of each is added.
• Ex: (P1) Frances is very successful in her career.
(P2) Frances has a secure and supportive marriage.
(C) Therefore, Frances is a happy person.
More Types of Complex Arguments:
• When a premise is a sub-conclusion that is supported by the first premise.
• Ex: (P1) Max was born in Canada to Canadian Parents.
(P2) This means that Max is a Canadian Citizen.
(C) Therefore, Max can vote in federal elections
• Ex: (P1) When the Meech Lake agreement was negotiated, it had the support if the Prime Minister and all the provincial premiers, who represented all the major political parties.
(P2) In several provinces the opposition parties voted to ratify the agreement.
(P3) So politicians of all parties across Canada strongly supported the agreement.
(P4) However, the vast majority of Canadians outside Quebec and a significant minority inside Quebec were strongly opposed to the agreement.
(C) Therefore, the politicians were out of touch with the views of the people.
Strategies for Assessing Arguments
The Fallacies Approach:
An approach to the theory of argument assessment which proceeds mainly by attempting to describe the main types of fallacious argument—the common mistakes one must guard against.
A fallacy is an error or weakness that makes an argument unsound but does so in a manner that disguises that weakness
There is no theoretical limit to the ways in which an argument can be weak
– Ex: Jane is a widow with three teenage children living in a two-bedroom basement apartment.
Therefore, her employer should promote her to supervisor.
This is an example of appeal to pity.
The Criterial Approach:
An approach to the theory of argument assessment which proceeds mainly by examination of the standards that a good argument must meet. This is the central approach of this text.
Unlike the fallacies approach, this is positive in nature; it focuses on what makes a good argument
Criteria means judge or assess.
Criteria refines the concept of a sound argument.
The Three Criteria of a Sound Argument:
(1) True premises (directly evident, or proven, or at least acceptable premises with good grounds to believe them). How high the standard is depending on what is being argued for (Eg. a mathematical proof has higher standards than a generalization about social matters)
(2) Logical strength: requires that premises be:
(a) Acceptable -> when they can reasonably be accepted as true. This is the first criterion for good arguments.
(b) Relevant -> when they provide support for the conclusion. Relevance of the premises is the second criterion for good arguments. (avoid even true premises that are not connected to proving the conclusion)
(c) Adequate -> the support the premises give is strong enough for the purposes of the argument. (a matter of degree in inductive arguments).
Rules for Assessing Arguments:
(1) Identify the main conclusion -> Involves confirming that an argument is being offered and then figuring out what the main point of the argument seems to be, what is the person trying to prove?
(2) Identify the premises -> what information and reasons are needed to support the conclusion (are any premises missing, is some information included irrelevant or just explaining what some of the terms mean).
(3) Identify the structure of the argument -> What is the structure of the argument? Is it a simple argument or is it complex? Does it involve premises working together or separately? Making a diagram of the argument is very helpful if it is complex.
(4) Check the acceptability of the premises -> Is it a counterfactual argument? If not, are the premises true/proven/reasonable? If one is false and it is a T argument, that is sufficient to cast doubt on the conclusion.
(5) Check the relevance of the premises
(6) Check the adequacy of the premises -> common ways arguments can fail/fallacies.
(7) Look for counter-arguments.
Verification: The process of determining whether a truth-claim is true (proving it true).
If we can show that a truth-¬claim is true, it has been verified; if we can show that it is false, it has been Falsified.
Sometimes, we can do neither, so the truth of the claim remains Undetermined.
Only statements can be viewed as truth claims and all statements can be evaluated as claims that may be either true or otherwise acceptable
The method of verification we use depends upon the type of truth-claim being made.
There are two types of truth claims:
• empirical truth claims:
we can attempt to verify them by checking the relevant facts.
can seek to verify or falsify it through looking at the world and examining experience of the world.
Some empirical claims are about what is the case right now (you are sitting in a classroom in the CCT building)
Some empirical claims are about the past or are predictions about the future (Tomorrow UTM will be closed due to a snowstorm)
In addition to particular empirical statements (about a particular fact) there are general empirical statements
– Ex: Most Canadians are supporters of public education. Ninety percent of students think textbook prices are too high.
Here you need evidence about at least a representative sample of the group the claim is about.
There are also universal empirical statements
– Ex: All swans are white.
• non-empirical truth-claims:
non-empirical statements are identified by the fact that empirical evidence would not be sufficient to verify or falsify them.
– Ex: The government should provide free day-care programs.
Many people believe that the government should provide free day-care programs, but by itself this doesn’t show that the statement is true.
Non-empirical truth claims come in three varieties:
(1) Analytic ->> Analytic truths (All bachelors are unmarried) (Can appeal to meanings of words, for mathematical analytic truths can seek to prove via other mathematical principles)
(2) Contradictory statements -> once we know what they mean, we can determine their truth or falsity without reference to any empirical facts.
(3) Ethical statements
(4) Normative statements ->> Normative truth claims (You should give money to those in need. The government should ensure everyone has access to basic health care. Picasso is the greatest painter of the 20th century. For normative truth claims: Can attempt to appeal to general principles about what makes an action right or an artwork great.
(5) Foundational -> principals that lie at the basis of all knowledge claims, including empirical claims.
To decide whether or not a statement is acceptable, we should proceed as follows:
(1) If the statement is common knowledge, we should regard it as acceptable unless the context requires a higher standard of proof.
(2) If the statement is not common knowledge, we should ask for, or be prepared to offer, the evidence upon which is based, and accept it only if the evidence meets the appropriate standard.
– Ex: personal experience, appeal to a recognized authority, or strict proof.
Some Particular Fallacies That Describe Special Kinds of Unacceptable Premises:
Begging the question:
committed by an argument when its premises presuppose, directly or indirectly, the truth of its conclusion.
Arguments fails to support its conclusion, since any reason we might have for doubting the conclusion will also lead us to doubt any premises that presupposed it.
Typically arises when we want to defend some claim yet have difficulty in finding reasons that will persuade others of its truth.
– Ex: We can be Certain [C] Lance never cheated to win a race in his entire career because [P] he never once circumvented rules designed to ensure fair play by all competitors.
The conclusion of this argument is true, but the evidence offered by the argument does not support it because P presupposes that he never cheated. Only someone who already accepts the conclusion would be able to accept that premise.
Is a fallacy that arises when an argument contains, implicitly or explicitly, a contradiction, usually between two premises.
Refers to a contradiction were two statements, neither of which is a contradictory on its own, create a contradiction when they are asserted together.
– Ex: Mary is older than Gary.
Gary is older than Mary.
Asserting them would make: Mary is older than Gary and Gary is older than Mary.
Is a fallacy that arises when a term is used with more than one meaning within a single argument.
– Ex: Noisy children are a real headache.
An aspirin will make a headache go away.
Therefore, an aspirin will make noisy children go away.
• Is a fallacy that arises when a premise presents us with a choice between two alternatives and assumes that they are exhaustive or exclusive or both, when in fact they are not.
• Alternatives are EXHAUSTIVE when they cover all the possibilities.
• Alternatives are EXCLUSIVE when the choice of one rules out the other(s).
– Ex: I’m against giving aid to countries in which people are starving. We will never be able to eradicate starvation completely, so It is a waste of time even trying.
The Criterion of Relevance
The premises of an argument must be relevant to the conclusion.
– Ex: You should vote for Johnson because she is hinest and is well informed
Non sequitur (it does not follow):
The traditional term used to describe arguments with irrelevant premises.
– Ex: The movie of Anna Karenina was pretty boring; it is really nothing more than a soap opera set in Imperial Russia. I’ d always thought it was supposed to be a great novel. I guess I was wrong.
Movies made from novels can be better or worse than the novels, so it does not follow that a bad movie means the novel it was loosely based on was bad. Even if the movie strove to be true to the novel, if it was badly acted and badly shot, it would not be evidence that the novel was bad.
Appeal to pity:
– Ex: You should hire her because she has just recovered from a car crash.
Appeal to force:
Arises when the premise of an argument threatens the use of force.
– Ex: This is a good movie because I say so and I punish people who disagree with me.
Appeal to popularity:
– Ex: You should try kayaking again, even though you have gone many times and hated it, because it is a very popular sport.
Appeal to Authority:
Arises when the argument cites the (irrelevant) testimony of someone who is nor a reliable authority on the matter at issue.
– Ex: So-and-so says X.
Therefore, X is true (or probably true)
Some Particular Fallacies That Involve an Irrelevant Appeal of Some Sort:
Ad hominem (Attacking the man):
Committed when an argument substitutes irrelevant personal or circumstantial information discrediting the author of a statement for genuine evidence that the statement is false.
Instead of attacking an argument (its premises are false or there are important missing premises, or the inference is not supported), you attack a person who gave or is associated with the argument.
– Ex: I can’t return the book to you because I still need it and you promised me I could borrow it for the whole month.
– Ad hominem attack: You never do what I want because you are an incredibly selfish person. I bet you have a narcissistic personality disorder. You probably don’t want me to have the book just because it would make me happy.
Is a special case of the as hominem.
Typically arises in an argumentative context when someone attempts to refute or rebut something said by another person.
Is committed when the conclusion of an argument claims that an accusation is unwarranted and supports it by claiming that the accuser is also open to a similar accusation.
– Ex: Wilma: You cheated on your income tax. Don’t you realize that’s wrong?
Walter: Hey, wait a minute. You cheated on your income tax last year. Or have you forgotten about that?
Arises in debates over controversial issues when one side is attempting to avoid or deflect criticisms presented by the other side.
This involves taking on the weakest possible version of an argument (and a position that perhaps nobody actually holds)
Is committed when someone attacks a position that appears similar to, but is actually different from, an opponents position, and concludes that the opponent’ has thereby been refuted.
– Ex: We either leave right now or we’re never going to get there so we need to leave this instant.
The Person is probably not claiming that a one second delay will mean one will never arrive, but that a delay of more than a short period could mean one will miss whatever event one is aiming to attend.
This involves the idea that taking one step in a direction will (inevitably or likely) cause you to take many more till you end up in a place that would be bad to be (sliding down a hill to end up in a ditch)
– Ex: If we allow physician assisted suicide, soon we’ll have death panels ruling as to whether the ill and elderly get to live or have to die.
Not a slippery slope fallacy: If I let you write a makeup test because you broke your hand and were being treated in the hospital, I’ll have to let everyone in similar circumstances do so as well (supposing I am committed to fairness and treating like people alike).
But this is a slippery slope fallacy: If I let you rewrite your test because (reason given above) I’ll have to let anyone who wants a makeup test get one just for asking.