Think Again: How To Understand Arguments

Vices in arguments
  • Premises are false.
  • The premise does not provide good reason for conclusion.
Virtues in arguments
  • Validity
  • Soundness
Deductive arguments
  • The conclusion should follow from the premise.
  • Is trying to be valid.

An argument is valid if and only if it is not possible that all the premises are true and conclusion is false.

Valid Arguments
  • Not all premises need to be true.
  • Validity is technical term and valid argument is not necessarily a good argument.
  • Not based on what is true, but what can be true when determining validity of an argument.
  • Validity is a necessary condition not sufficient.

An argument is sound if and only if all of its premises are true and it is valid.

  • Conclusion has to be true.
  • Arguments can be valid but not sound.

Argument Reconstruction

Goal of reconstruction is to make it easier to assess whether argument is good or bad.

Stages of Reconstruction
  • Stage 1. - Close analysis.
  • Stage 2. - Get down to basic
    • Remove all excess content.
      • Repetitions, road markers, tangents, red herring, examples.
      • Make sure that you have not removed any essential content.
      • Guarding and assuring terms can sometimes be removed.
    • List all explicity premises and conclusions in standard form.
  • Stage 3. - Sharpen the edges.
    • Get explanation for things which are unclear.
    • Break up premises where possible.
  • Stage 4. - Organize
    • Divide in subparts and put them in correct order.
    • Linear, joint, or branch structures or a combination thereof.
  • Stage 5. - Fill in the gaps
    • Assess whether each argument is valid.
    • Add missing premises where needed.
    • Check each premise for truth.
  • Stage 6. - Assess the argument.