Logic 102: Arguments

In the last video, we covered sentences and propositions. Before we begin this video, let us do a short recap of the content of the last video.

There is a difference between sentences and propositions. Sentences are the grammatically correct utterances we issue in the English language. A proposition or sometimes referred to as a statement, on the other hand, is what an unambiguous declarative sentence asserts. We also learned that no exclamation like “Hi!” can be a proposition. We learned that questions cannot be propositions. And finally, we learned that ambiguous sentences, such as sentences with indexicals cannot be propositions.

What we have learned in the last video needs to be carried into this video as all the sentences we will be dealing with are propositions. In this video, we will learn the form of an argument, how to identify arguments, and how to identify passages which do not contain arguments.

So, let’s get started.

In an argument we accept one proposition, the conclusion, on the basis of other propositions, the premises. The premises are said to contain evidence for the conclusion; the conclusion is said to follow from the premises. In most general terms, we can say that an argument is a group of propositions where one proposition, the conclusion, is claimed to follow from the others, the premises. Consider the following example of an argument

P1: All simps are manginas
P2: Billy is a simp
C: Therefore, Billy is a mangina

The conclusion is sometimes separated off from the premises with a horizontal line. An argument must have at least one premise though it can have many premises. However, an argument has exactly one conclusion.

That an argument has only one conclusion is a matter of convention. Logicians have simply agreed that they will use the term ‘argument’ in such a way that there is a one-to-one correspondence between arguments and conclusions. Now, of course, it is sometimes possible to draw two conclusions from the same premises. In such a case, however, we speak of there being two arguments. Consider an example of such situation. Let us adopt the following set of premises:

P1: Whoever reads Plato is awesome.
P2: All listeners of Marcus’ youTube channel read Plato.

Now, there are a couple of conclusions we can draw from these premises. For instance, we can draw the conclusion that Marcus (who is a listener of Marcus’ youTube channel, of course) is awesome. In doing so, we are making the following argument:

P1: Whoever reads Plato is awesome.
P2: All listeners of Marcus’ youTube channel read Plato.
C: Therefore, Marcus is awesome.

But we can also make the following argument:
P1: Whoever reads Plato is awesome.
P2: All listeners of Marcus’ youTube channel read Plato.
C: Therefore, no listener of Marcus’ youTube channel is not awesome.

So here we have made two arguments from the very same premises as we have drawn two conclusions from this set of premises. In this way, all arguments follow the pattern and notation we have supplied. I encourage you to use this notation when attempting to formulate your own thoughts. By using this notation, you will quickly discover whether or not what you are attempting to prove can actually be inferred from the premises you are putting forward as evidence. By using this notation, you can also help improve your video making or writing skills. By starting out with a formal argument, you can use each premise as if it were a chapter heading. First state your first premise, then provide exposition for that premise until you are satisfied that you have demonstrated the premise true. Next, you move on to the next premise and repeat the process. If you are successful in your argument, you are free to boldly state the conclusion at the end.
Recognizing Arguments

Okay, now that we know what the structure of an argument looks like. Let us now turn to recognizing formal arguments within common speech and text passages.

For our purposes in this video series, arguments will be presented to you in a standardized format where it will be clear what the premises are and what the conclusion is. Arguments, however, usually occur in less obvious forms in real life. In fact, the more logic one does the better one becomes at understanding arguments and then at identifying arguments in practice. You should not expect this skill of yourself just yet. Still it is useful to learn a few points.

The first thing that is crucial is to identify the conclusion in an argumentative passage; namely, the claim that someone is arguing for. At the same time, you will be identifying the premises; namely, the claims that serve as evidence for the conclusion. There is no general full-proof recipe for identifying argument-parts. Often the premises are mentioned first, but sometimes it is the conclusion that appears first in the passage. Consider the following paragraph:

God does not exist because the Bible, which is the sole evidence that God exists, has been written by Ancients, who have been wrong on countless occasions.

The conclusion of this argument is the proposition “God does not exist.” The premises of the argument include the propositions: “The Bible is the sole evidence that God exists,” “The Bible has been written by Ancients,” and “The Ancients have been wrong on countless occasions.”

Once one identifies the premises of the argument it also becomes easier to evaluate the argument. Is it really true, for example, that the Bible is the sole evidence that God exists? And we might also worry about the occasions on which the Ancients have been wrong etc. For our purposes, however, we are only concerned with the recognizing of arguments and their minimal structure; namely, their premises and conclusion. We will leave the task of evaluating arguments the next couple videos.

In recognizing the conclusions and premises within a block of text, it is helpful to note words that typically indicate conclusions. These words are sometimes called “conclusion-indicators.”
Conclusion indicators include words such as:

Therefore, thus, consequently, accordingly, entails that, hence, it must be that, it follows that, for this reason, implies that, so, as a result, in conclusion, we may infer, and we may conclude.
Likewise, it is useful to take note of words that typically indicate premises. These are sometimes called “premise-indicators”.

Premise indicators include words such as:

Since, because, for, as, given that, for the reason that, inasmuch as, in that, seeing that, owing to, as, indicated by, and may be inferred from.

Now, these lists of words are only samples that can help you parse any block of text in order to extract the argument. These lists should not be taken as exhaustive or authoritative in any way. They are a useful reference as you are ramping up your own skills at recognizing premises and conclusions within a block of text. When you grow familiar in extracting argument from what you encounter, you will find that half the time what people are saying does not actually constitute an argument at all.

Not all passages contain arguments. Because logic deals with arguments, it is important to be able to distinguish passages that contain arguments from those that do not. In general, a passage contains an argument if it purports to prove something; if it does not do so, it does not contain an argument.

Earlier in the video we learned that every argument has at least one premise and exactly one conclusion. The premise or premises set forth the alleged evidence or reasons, and the conclusion asserts what is claimed to follow from the alleged evidence or reasons. This formulation of an argument expresses what is needed for a passage to contain an argument. An argument contains at least two things. Firstly, At least one of the statements must claim to present evidence or reasons. Secondly, there must be a claim that the alleged evidence supports or implies something; that is, a claim that something follows from the alleged evidence or reasons.

It is not necessary that the premises present actual evidence or true reasons nor that the premises actually support the conclusion. But at least, the premises must claim to present evidence or reasons, and there must be a claim that the evidence or reasons support or imply something. Also, you should recognize that the second claim is not equatable with the intentions of the arguer. Intentions are subjective and, as such, are usually not accessible to the evaluator. Rather, this claim is an objective feature of an argument grounded in its language or structure.

In deciding whether a passage contains an argument, the claim that the alleged reasons or evidence supports or implies something is usually the more important of the two. Such a claim can be either explicit or implicit. An implicit claim exists if there is an inferential relationship between the statements
in a passage, but the passage contains no indicator words.

Simple Noninferential Passages

Now let us look at several types of passages that do not constitute arguments. The first type is simple noninferential passages. Simple noninferential passages are unproblematic passages that lack a claim that anything is being proved.
Such passages contain statements that could be premises or conclusions (or both), but what is missing is a claim that any potential premise supports a conclusion or that any potential conclusion is supported by premises. Passages of this sort include warnings, pieces of advice, statements of belief or opinion, loosely associated statements, and reports.

For example: A warning could be “Watch out that the door does not hit your ass on the way out.” A piece of advice can be “Before you buy a car, you should make sure there are no dead hookers in the trunk.” A statement of belief or opinion could be “I think you are a fucken cuck, you fucken cuck.” A loosely associated statement could be “Damn its hot outside. Let’s go pwn some noobs.” A report, on the other hand, can be “Witnesses say that noobs were pwned on hottest day of the year; tonight at 11.”

As we can see, none of the examples listed are candidates capable of entering into inferential reasoning. As such, none of the examples given are arguments. Now, let us look at expository passages.

Expository Passage

An expository passage is a kind of discourse that begins with a topic sentence followed by one or more sentences that develop the topic sentence. If the objective is not to prove the topic sentence but only to expand it or elaborate it, then there is no argument. In each passage the topic sentence is stated first, and the remaining sentences merely develop and flesh out this topic sentence. These passages are not arguments, because they lack an inferential claim. However, expository passages differ from simple noninferential passages (such as warnings and pieces of advice) in that many of them can also be taken as arguments. If the purpose of the subsequent sentences in the passage is not only to flesh out the topic sentence but also to prove it, then the passage is an argument.

An example of an expository passage goes as follows:

There are three familiar types of pussybeggers: simps, manginas, and cucks. Simps tend to enter into male orbiter relations to women. A mangina occupies a friend zone position but may from time to time be thrown a pity fuck. A cuck maintains neither male orbiter or friend zone status. He is required to be exclusive to his wife or girlfriend while she is free to ride the cock carousel.

As we can see, the first sentence established the topic to be discussed. Each subsequent sentence elaborated upon what the topic is. However, none of the sentence attempt to prove the case of the topic sentence but merely provide detail.

Next let us move on to the category of passages known as illustrations.

Illustrations

An illustration is an expression involving one or more examples that is intended to show what something means or how it is done. Illustrations are often confused with arguments because many illustrations contain indicator words such as “thus.”

Let us take the following example:

A silly rabbit is any rabbit that does not know that tricks are for kids; or whores. Like the rabbit in the Trix commercial.

In this passage, there is no attempt to prove anything. The Trix rabbit is cited as a concrete example to solidify the meaning of what a silly rabbit is. However, many illustrations can be taken as arguments. Such arguments are often called arguments from example. Here is an instance of one:

A woman thinks differently to a man. Like when she complains about a headache so you suggest she remove the nail from her head but then she accuses you of not listening. (Play Clip of nail)

In this passage the example given is intended to prove the truth of “Women thinks differently to men.” It attempts to do this by citing an instance in which the speaker believes the truth of the matter can be illustrated. Thus, the passage is best interpreted as an argument.

Explanations and Conditionals

Now, there are two more broad categories of passages that do not contain an argument. These are explanations and conditional statements. I will not be going into any detail on these as I think you get the point at this stage of what sort of passages cannot qualify as argument.

So, let us close off this video by going over everything we have learned in this video thus far. An argument is composed of at least one or more premises. An argument has exactly one conclusion though you can construct many arguments with the same premises to derive multiple conclusions from them. The premises and the conclusion of an argument as always propositions. Pretty much no arguments you will encounter in the real world will be presented in the formal argument structure. As such, you will be tasked to extract the arguments from the various passages you encounter in the real world.

To help you extract argument you can use premise indicator words as well as conclusion indicator words. However, you will also encounter a great number of passages that in themselves do not contain an argument. There are broadly 5 types of passages which do not contain arguments. These are simple noninferential passages which can further be broken down to warnings, pieces of advice, statements about beliefs or opinions, loosely associates statements, and report. The other type of non-argumentative passages are expository passages, illustration passages, explanations, and conditional statements.

Now, this video series seems to be expanding as I discover things that I wish to include in a short introduction to logic. It looks like we will end up with at least 5 videos in total. They will all be numbered starting with Logic 100: A short history of logic. The next video in the series will include content that could not be fit into this video without drawing it out too much. As such, the next video will begin our journey into evaluating arguments. We will be covering the differences between deductive and inductive arguments.

Until then, thanks for listening.

Go team!

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