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So You'd Like An Argument...

 
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jabailo



Joined: 20 Mar 2006
Posts: 1273
Location: Kent (East Hill), WA

PostPosted: Thu Apr 14, 2011 5:19 pm    Post subject: So You'd Like An Argument... Reply with quote

I have trying to find a way to express impasses I've found often in Internet threads when it comes to argumentation. Here I am using an Internet thread to explore the problem (which in and of itself is a bit hopeless perhaps, but here goes).

So, I read that in an argument you have a premise and a conclusion.

Premise: It is raining
Argument: If it is raining, then I will get wet outside.
Conclusion: Outside I will get wet.

So, the issue I am trying to describe is when someone uses an almost universal premise, but couples it with a possibly specious, or at least debatable Argument.

Premise: The Sun Will Come Up Tomorrow
Argument: If the sun comes up, we must be experiencing manmade global warming
Conclusion: We must tax carbon

The person then focuses on the premise, not the argument and starts shouting things like "Oh, so you're one of those anti-Sun-coming-up-tomorrow" types...guess you think we're evolved from Unicorns then!!

The problem is, it often works as this slight-of-mind technique focuses the audience on the unassailable truth of the Premise, so trying to "argue" the argument can seem like nitpicking in the face of what would be obvious to all. The follow up of ad hominem attacks is then double effective as by making the person seem to doubt the premise his integrity at evaluating the argument is all but destroyed!
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 20, 2011 6:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

jabailo wrote:
Premise: It is raining
Argument: If it is raining, then I will get wet outside.
Conclusion: Outside I will get wet.

This one seems clear enough. A is true. "If A then B" is true. Therefore B is true. Note that just saying that A is true doesn't make it so. Likewise, saying that "If A then B" is true, also doesn't make it so. However, if the first 2 parts are true, then B must be true.

jabailo wrote:

Premise: The Sun Will Come Up Tomorrow
Argument: If the sun comes up, we must be experiencing manmade global warming
Conclusion: We must tax carbon

Here, there are 2 factors that muddy the water. 1) The sentence "If A then B" doesn't have anything to recommend its truth. 2) The second factor is that you've left out some extra reasoning about B, C, D and so forth. So, "If B then C" might be "If there is manmade global warming, then we must tax carbon. The more likely reality is that what I am calling C is actually more like D, E, F or G, because more reasoning is needed to extend the argument. Those extra reasons would be needed to establish that, for instance, that something could be done about manmade global warming, and that carbon had a central role, etc.

From my perspective, these reasoning steps are not necessarily absurd in the way that your "If A then B" step is. Simply, these steps are not included in your argument.

To conclude, you should be able to invoke Aristotle to debunk "If A then B", but tread more carefully in the neighborhood of the C, D and E arguments. In these cases the reasoning could be ultimately sound, but one or more of the arguers has left out a step (perhaps because it seemed so obvious).
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