Philosophy And Critical Thinking Notes For The Semester (With A Head Cold)

Goal: Begin to prepare notes for the first few weeks of teaching the semester.

Additional Materials: This bottle of horrible smelling stuff that the chemist gave me to handle the headache, cough and inability to register ambient temperature.

What is an argument? It’s a set of statements in which a claim is made and supported, by way of premises, inferences and conclusion. We’re looking at a series of statements or assertions which are purported to justify or explain a conclusion.

Premise ——  Inference —– Conclusion

Some examples of words and phrases that indicate premises: since, because, for, as shown by, for the reason that.

Some examples of words and phrases that indicate conclusion indicators: therefore, hence, as a result, accordingly, we may infer, thus.

Example of an argument:

I have a cold; but I am taking this medicine – therefore I will soon feel better.

NOT an argument:

The bottle says it works.

An argument may not necessarily have a conclusion at the end of a sentence:

This cold of mine will be fixed by this medicine, because the chemist has recommended it to me and the label says that it contains ingredients to help colds.

Examples of Argument Forms:

Serial Argument – one single line of reasoning.

  1. All men are mortal
  2. Socrates is a man
  3. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

NOT

  1. All this cold medicine is mine
  2. I have a cold
  3. Therefore, I can no longer focus on near objects.

Convergent Argument – two reasons that, independent of each other, support the conclusion. This means that even if we eliminate one reason, the conclusion is still obtainable by the reason that remains.

Hydrogen blimps should not be built. Travel via blimps isn’t necessary when there are other safer means; in addition, there are few well-qualified drivers of blimps who could handle the conditions involved in using them. 

NOT

This cold medicine is not unlike watching the movie Poltergeist. Firstly, I think there’s a disconnect between my hands and my cup of tea; also, why can’t I feel my nose anymore?

When evaluating arguments, we evaluate their premises and the way they’re related to the conclusion. If an argument is cogent (another word used is sound) – then the premises are rationally acceptable and are ordered as such to provide support for the conclusion.

Here’s an example of an argument adapted by one given by Richard Dawkins from The God Delusion:

Omniscience and omnipotence are mutually incompatible. If God is omniscient, he must already know he is going to intervene to change the course of history using his omnipotence. But that means he can’t change his mind about his intervention, which means he is not omnipotent. 

Identify the premise, inference/s and conclusion. Highlight the premise indicators and conclusion indicator. Save this blogpost and try not to fall asleep on the couch before putting away notes for next time.

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