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Arguments - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Arguments. Arguments are lines of reasoning using propositions (claims or assertions) Propositions come in 3 forms: factual claims, opinions and ideas (including hypotheses and theories) Premise/Conclusion structure. Examples of Arguments.

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Arguments l.jpg

  • Arguments are lines of reasoning using propositions (claims or assertions)

  • Propositions come in 3 forms: factual claims, opinions and ideas (including hypotheses and theories)

  • Premise/Conclusion structure

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Examples of Arguments

  • You shouldn’t hit people, Johnny. Hitting hurts people, and it’s wrong to hurt people.

  • My client was at the bar when the murder occurred. Several eyewitnesses have reported seeing him there, and his receipt indicates that he didn’t leave until after the murder occurred. Thus, he could not have committed the murder

  • If the Cubs want to start winning, they need to redesign their uniforms. This always seems to give teams a new, winning attitude. You know, kind of a break from the losing days of the past.

  • Bill cheated on you once before; he’ll do it again. Men like that just don’t change.

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2 Key Distinctions

  • Strong v. Persuasive arguments: Arguments are strong (or cogent) if they are well reasoned; arguments are persuasive if they succeed in convincing. Strong arguments are not necessarily persuasive; persuasive arguments are not necessarily strong.

  • Descriptions v. Inferences: Descriptions are reports; inferences are conclusions from or interpretations of those reports.

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  • Many arguments contain assumptions or missing premises—i.e., incomplete presentations of the argument.

  • Assumptions can be warranted or unwarranted

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When are assumptions warranted?

  • Readily available evidence

  • Factual claim shared with target audience

  • Value claim shared with target audience

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When are assumptions unwarranted?

  • Based on speculation

  • Based on evidence not readily available

  • Disagreement over factual matters

  • Disagreement over value judgments

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Some Examples

  • It’s wrong to spank your children because it’s abusive.

  • We should put tighter restrictions on divorce. As Jesus told us, “What God has joined, let no man sunder”.

  • Jim wouldn’t have developed lung cancer if he had quit smoking.

  • It was wrong of us to go to war in Iraq, because it’s killing innocent people.

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Types of Evidence I

Speculation or Opinion

Circumstantial Evidence

Cause/Effect Reasoning

All these are evaluated by abductive methods—by Inference to the Best Explanation

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Types of Evidence II


Evaluated by: observation


background information

personal characteristics

cultural factors


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Types of Evidence III

Factual claims

Statistical data

Evaluated by empirical observation and analysis

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Types of Evidence IV

Value claims (incl. taste, aesthetic judgment, moral judgment)

Analogies (including Precedents)

Conditional claims

Evaluated by coherence, relevance and applicability

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Multi-Step Arguments

  • Some arguments have preliminary conclusions as steps toward a major conclusion

  • Some arguments provide evidential support for their premises

    ^ These are called Lemmas

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An Example: William Lane Craig’s Cosmological Argument

P1: Everything that begins to exist has a cause

P2: The Universe began to exist

L1: Big Bang Cosmology

L2: The logical impossibility of an actual infinite

PC1: Therefore, the Universe began to exist

P3: Nothing can cause itself to exist

PC2: Therefore, something else caused the Universe to exist

P4: The only plausible cause for the Universe is God

L3: Because God is omnipotent and omniscient

C: God caused the Universe to exist