MIT24_08Js09_assn08_argumenthandout

MIT24_08Js09_assn08_argumenthandout - MIT OpenCourseWare...

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MIT OpenCourseWare http://ocw.mit.edu 24.08J / 9.48J Philosophical Issues in Brain Science Spring 2009 For information about citing these materials or our Terms of Use, visit: http://ocw.mit.edu/terms.
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9.48/24.08J S09 ! Handout Arguments: the basics 1 An argument in logic is not a quarrel or dispute; instead, it is a list of sentences. The last sentence is the conclusion, and the other sentences are the premises. Thus: (1) No professors are ignorant. All ignorant people are vain. No professors are vain. and: (2) All lions are fierce. Some lions do not drink coffee. Some creatures that drink coffee are not fierce. are both arguments. (These two examples are taken from Lewis Carroll, who was an amateur logician, as well as the author of Alice in Wonderland .) The readings will usually not contain arguments in this nice form. Rather, you will have to extract premises and conclusions from much more complex and lengthy passages of text. In doing this, it is helpful to look out for certain key words which often serve as indicators of (“flags” for) premises or conclusions. Some common premise-indicators are because, since, given that, for . These words usually come right before a premise. Examples of the use of such “flags” for premises: (3) Danish pastries should be renamed, because the Danish cartoonists committed blasphemy. (4) Given that euthanasia is a common medical practice, we might as well make it legal. (5) Since marijuana is a dangerous recreational drug, it should not be prescribed by doctors. (6) We must engage in affirmative action, for America is still a racist society. (7) Because gay marriage is a hotly contested issue in this country, nobody should force his opinion about it on anyone else. Some common conclusion-indicators are thus, therefore, hence, it follows that, so, consequently . These words usually come right before the conclusion of the argument. / ! More exactly, sentences that are either true or false. Thus ‘Shut the door!’, and ‘Is the door shut?’, although perfectly acceptable sentences, cannot form part of an argument as explained here. ! Last revision: 2/12/09
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9.48/24.08J S09 Examples of the use of such “flags” for conclusions: (8) Either Clinton lied about sex, or about whether he was alone with Monica, or about the meaning of ‘alone’; so he lied about something. (9) Affirmative action violates the rights of white males to a fair shake; hence it is unjust. (10) It is always wrong to kill a human being, and a fetus is undoubtedly a human being. It follows that abortion is always wrong. (11) Sarah Palin is a woman of impeccable integrity and would never lie. Consequently , she has been wrongly accused. (12) Tony Soprano is seeing a psychiatrist and so is not playing with a full deck. Thus , he won’t make a good mob boss and should therefore be taken out. It is also helpful to use these premise- and conclusion-indicators in your own writing, to
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