LECTURE #2: IDENTIFYING PREMISES AND CONCLUSIONS
- last week we learned what arguments were, and the names for the parts of an argument.
- quick review: what is a premise?
What is a conclusion?
- tonight we’re going to learn how to identify premises and conclusions within simple and complex
- obviously, before we can begin to criticize an argument, we must understand it.
- part of this is knowing a) what it is trying to prove and b) how it goes about proving it, in other words
the conclusion and premises.
- first we’re going to learn how to distinguish arguments from non-arguments, then look at some
techniques for identifying premises and conclusions, and finally consider the standard form for writing
Distinguishing arguments from non-arguments:
- we speak and write for various reasons.
- a piece of prose can be an explanation, it can be an announcement, it can be a command, it can be for
the purpose of expressing an opinion or feeling.
- the purpose of an argument is to persuade someone of the truth of a position.
- note that there are various ways to persuade someone.
- you can persuade by issuing a
give me all your money or I’ll shoot you.
- you can persuade by means of an enticement: if you stop crying, I’ll give you a cookie.
- you can persuade through emotional pressure: if you really love me, you’d have sex with me.
- argument differs from these other methods of persuasion in a number of respects.
- argument is not mere persuasion but what we call
- rational persuasion means we persuade by giving reasons.
- we’re not manipulating or bullying: we are trying to get the other person to agree, not merely to
- this distinction is worth looking at: what does it mean to agree?
- we agree when we take up someone’s position as our own.
- now what does it mean to accede?
- to accede means to give in, to capitulate, to go along with someone despite the fact that we don’t
want to or don’t think that they’re right.
- an argument is a matter of persuading someone that our position or viewpoint is a good one, not
merely a matter of getting them to go along with us.
- ultimately, what we aim at in argument is not merely to persuade, but to arrive at the truth.
- or, failing that, at least the best-supported position on any given issue.
- for this reason, all forms of trickery or deceit are antithetical to argument.
- many of the common problems with arguments, or
that we’ll be looking at over the next
couple of weeks are forms of trickery or deception.
- this is why they’re fallacies.
- if you employ fallacies, you may succeed in persuading someone, but you haven’t made a good
- using fallacies to persuade someone is a bit like lying, and it is objectional for the same reasons.
- in addition, it leads to sloppy thinking.