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Three Types of Argument. Generalization, Authority and Cause. I. Generalization: Arguments Using Examples. Make sure examples are true Use more than one example Use representative examples Background rates may be crucial Statistics need a critical eye Consider counterexamples.

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Three Types of Argument

Generalization, Authority and Cause


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I. Generalization: Arguments Using Examples

  • Make sure examples are true

  • Use more than one example

  • Use representative examples

  • Background rates may be crucial

  • Statistics need a critical eye

  • Consider counterexamples


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1. Make sure examples are true

  • Women in earlier times were married very young. Juliet in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet was not even fourteen years old. In the Middle Ages, thirteen was the normal age of marriage for a Jewish woman. And during the Roman Empire, many Roman women were married at age thirteen or younger.


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The Argument

Premise 1:Juliet in Shakespeare’s play was not even fourteen years old.[TRUE]

P2: Jewish women during the Middle Ages were normally married at thirteen.[TRUE]

P3: Many Roman women during the Roman Empire were married at age thirteen or younger. [True]

Therefore, women in earlier times were married very young


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2. Use more than one example

NO

French Fries are unhealthy

Therefore, all fast foods are unhealty

YES (Better)

1.French fries are unhealthy (high in fat)

2. Milkshakes are unhealthy (high in fat/sugar)

3. Deep fried chicken and cheeseburgers are unhealthy (high in fat

Therefore, all fast foods are unhealthy


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3. Use Representative Samples

Premise: All my college friends support gay marriage

Conclusion: All Chinese are in support of gay marriage

BUT…

The opinion of college students is generally speaking not representative of the opinion of the population at large on this (and many) issues


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4. Background rates may be crucial

My friend’s horoscope said he would meet a new woman today and he did

Therefore, we should read our horoscopes

  • BUT…

    How many times did the horoscope completely miss the mark?

    RULE: To evaluate arguments using a few vivid examples, we need to know the ratio of “hits” to tries


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5. Statistics need a critical eye

  • “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure”

    ---Mark Twain(?)


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Mental illness affects 38 percent of Europeans, study shows

  • “Is mental illness more common in Europe than in other parts of the world? Reliable statistics aren't readily available, but mental health experts expressed surprise over new research showing that 38 percent of the European population, or 165 million people, have a mental or neurological disorder.”


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6. Consider Counterexamples

1.French fries are unhealthy (high in fat)

2. Milkshakes are unhealthy (high in fat/sugar)

3. Deep fried chicken and cheeseburgers are unhealthy (high in fat

Therefore, all fast foods are unhealthy

  • Therefore, Most fast foods are unhealthy


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II. ARGUMENTS FROM AUTHORITY

  • X (a source that ought to know) says that Y is true

  • Therefore, Y is true


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II. Rules for Arguments Using Sources

  • Cite Your Sources

  • Seek Informed/Impartial Sources

  • Use them in their area of expertise

  • Cross-check Sources

  • Use the Web with care

  • Where possible, emphasize the evidence, not the expert


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NO

“I once read that there are cultures in which makeup and clothes are mostly men’s business, not women’s”

YES

“Carl Beckwith, in ‘Niger’s Wodaabe’ (National Geographic 164, no.4 [October 1983], pp.482-509), reports that West African Fulani peoples such as the Wodaabe, makeup and clothes are mostly men’s business”

Cite Your Sources


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Seek Informed Sources

  • Make sure the person sited has the qualifications necessary

  • Where a source’s qualifications are not immediately clear, an argument must explain them briefly.


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Who is Carl Sagan?

  • Carl Sagan believes there is life on other planets

  • Carl Sagan, astronomer, astrobiologist, a leader in the space program and author of numerous best selling books about space exploration, believes


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Use them in their area of expertise

  • Einstein believed there must be a God, therefore there is a God

  • Einstein has not particular expertise in matters of theology


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Cross-check Sources

  • In his 1948 book, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, Alfred Kinsey shocked the world by announcing that 10% of the male population is gay. A 1993 Janus Report estimated that nine percent of men and five percent of women had more than "occasional" homosexual relationships. The 2000 U.S. Census Bureau found that homosexual couples constitute less than 1% of American households. The Family Research Report says "around 2-3% of men, and 2% of women, are homosexual or bisexual." The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force estimates three to eight percent of both sexes. So who's right -- what percentage of the population is homosexual?


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Use the web with care

  • Wikipedia will not be allowed as a source for this course

  • Be very, very careful about any source pulled off of the web


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III. Rules for Arguments about causes

  • Causal arguments start with correlations

  • Correlations may have alternate explanations

  • Work towards the most likely explanation

  • Expect complexity


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Causal arguments start with correlations

  • Event or condition E1 is regularly associated with event or condition E2

  • Therefore, event or condition E1 causes event or condition E2

  • People who meditate tend to be calmer

  • Therefore, meditation calms you down

Shows on TV portray more and more violence and depravity and society is becoming more violent and depraved

Therefore television is ruining our morals


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Some correlations may be simply coincidental

  • E.G. More people named ‘Dennis’ have been killed by lightening strikes than those with any other name.But there is no causal connection between having a certain name and getting struck by lightening, even if there is a correlation


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Correlation does not establish the direction of the connection

  • People who go to Harvard wind up making ten times the national income, so going to Harvard makes you wealthy

  • But probably most of them were wealthy before they went to Harvard


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Does meditation make you calm? connection

  • Or do more people who are calm by nature choose to meditate?


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Multiple or complex causes may be at work connection

  • Violence on television may contribute to higher crime rates, but so may a poor economy


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NO: connection

Most of my open minded friends are well-read; most of my less-open minded friends are not. I concluded that reading leads to open mindedness

YES: Most of my open minded friends are well-read; most of my less-open minded friends are not. It makes sense that the more you read the more you encounter challenging new ideas, ideas that make you less insistent on your own. Reading also lifts you out of your daily world and shows you how different and many-sided life can be. Reading, therefore, leads to open-mindedness.

Work towards the most likely explanation


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Or again connection

  • Suppose you are arguing that homosexuals should be allowed to marry. You want to say that the state has an obligation to insure happiness and that the evidence is that married people are happier than not married people.

  • You could just site some expert but it is much more powerful if you can argue why this might be the case, that is, present an argument that marriage contributes more to human happiness.

  • One is happier when one is not so self-preoccupied and that marriage requires that one focus on others. Also, marriage offers companionship and support.

  • Also as a way of supporting your causal claim, consider alternative explanations, for example that happy people are better at getting and staying married. Is this really plausible? It is equally likely that happiness might lead one to stay single


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Expect Complexity connection

  • A causal claim does not require a 1-1 correlation. If you are arguing that E1 causes E2 showing that E1 doesn’t always produce E2 does non necessarily discredit the claim

  • The claim is that E1 often or usually produces E2


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Smoking causes lung cancer connection

  • Showing that not everyone who smokes gets cancer does not disprove the claim that smoking causes cancer

  • The claim is that smoking often or usually causes cancer