However, conclusions sometimes remain unexpressed. These are 2 implicit conclusions. They are only implied or suggested by the actual text or speech content, not explicitly expressed by it. This is often a bad idea as the conclusion is not always as obvious to those whom one is trying to persuade as it is to the persuader.
In the name of clarity and explicitness, try to avoid implicit conclusions in your own writing and speech. Thus the stages of identification are not entirely separate in practice. What evidence does the writer or speaker give to think that the conclusion is true? The propositions that you come up with in response to these questions are likely to be the premises of the intended argument. It does not matter whether a proposition is controversial or unanimously agreed, it can still be a premise. Again, it helps to work out the overall structure of the passage when trying to identify the premises.
Consider the following: I really think the Government should reconsider its policies on higher education. Most of what is said is at best only obliquely rele- 9 vant to the issue. There are other words and phrases that introduce sentences stating a premise or premises. For example: 4 5 On the basis of the fact that they have promised big tax cuts, I 6 conclude that the Conservative Party will probably win the next 7 general election. See the next section, discussing the distinction between arguments and explanations.
Context is the best means of identifying premises in such cases. It may also help to try adding premise indicators to propositions to see if the passage or speech still runs smoothly.
Thus many attempts to persuade by argument rely on implicit premises: these are propositions assumed or intended by the arguer as reasons in support of the conclusion, but which are not actually expressed by any sentence provided by the arguer. Sometimes this happens out of oversight; other times because the arguer assumes that, in the given context, the premise may already be taken for granted. In Chapter 5 we will discuss the interpretation of hidden premises and the reconstruction of arguments to include them.
Arguments and explanations Words that function as indicator words can be used for other purposes. The distinction between arguments and explanations is important, but not always easy to make because arguments and explanation often have a very similar structure. In some cases we have to think hard about the context in order to determine which is intended.
Critical Thinking: A Concise Guide
We need to work out whether they are telling us that such-and-such event occurred as a result of some other event — that is, whether they intend to assert a relation of cause and effect. The best way to appreciate the distinction between arguments and explanations is to consider an example. Consider this proposition: The tap is leaking. The difference is that when giving 2 the explanation, the speaker assumes that his or her audience already 3 accepts the proposition that the tap is leaking, or at least that the speaker 4 has no need to persuade the audience of this fact.
Given this fact, the speaker is asserting that the cause of that fact is the faulty or worn-out 6 washer. By contrast, when giving an argument, the speaker does not 7 assume that the audience accepts or will accept that the tap is leaking 8 outright; the arguer intends to persuade the audience that this is so by 9 giving the audience a good reason to believe it. This confusion arises because in the case of actions, reasons are 5 causes! That is, the explanation of an action normally involves specifying 6 the reason for it: a person does something because he or she had a certain 7 reason.
Nevertheless, the distinction between arguments and explanations still holds. So you take the question as demanding a justification for your driving so fast. I think we should be free to do anything that we enjoy. It might be rewritten thus in standard form: P1 I enjoy driving fast.
P2 It is acceptable for me to do anything I enjoy. C It is acceptable for me to drive fast. In such a case, your enjoying it might both a reason for driving fast and a cause of it. Intermediate conclusions The conclusion of one argument may serve as a premise of a subsequent argument. The conclusion of that argument may itself serve as a premise for another argument and so on. A simple illustration: Fido is a dog. All dogs are mammals, so Fido is a mammal. And since all mammals are warm-blooded, it follows that Fido is warm- blooded. We represent extended arguments of this kind 4 like this: 5 6 P1 Fido is a dog.
So C1 is both the conclusion of one 8 argument and the premise of another. It is the ultimate target. So we call this simply the conclu- 2 sion of the argument, whereas any other conclusions, reached as steps 3 along the way, are called intermediate conclusions. In the above case, for example, we might be 6 particularly interested either in the first part of the argument, or in the 7 second. All reasoning consists of inferences. Contrary to the way the word 5 is often ordinarily employed, there need be nothing doubtful about an 6 inference.
But in our sense of the word, an inference may be 9 completely certain, not subject to doubt. Here we are trying to work out what the speaker or writer intends readers or listeners to understand, and consequently do or believe, on hear- ing or reading their words. At this stage you should aim to be able to recognise these sen- tences and to be able to give the possible interpretations of them; that is, the propositions that they could be used to convey. Ambiguity A sentence is ambiguous in a given context when there is more than one possible way of interpreting it in that context — that is, if there is more than one proposition it could plausibly be taken to express in that context.
There are two types of ambiguity. Lexical ambiguity This is a property of individual words and phrases that occurs when the word or phrase has more than one meaning. The set or group of things to which an expression applies is called its extension it helps to think of an extension as all the things over which the word or phase extends or spreads itself.
An ambiguous word or phrase, then, has two or more sepa- rate and different extensions — it picks out two or more different sets of things. Ambiguous words and phrases can bring their ambiguity into sentences, making those sentences capable of having more than one possible interpretation. Notice that it is not only nouns 6 that can be lexically ambiguous. When interpreting sentences 2 that are lexically ambiguous, we have to focus on the context in which 3 they are written or said and the consequent probability of each of the 4 possible interpretations being the correct one.
This is 9 because the words, though spelt differently, sound the same. Of course, once we see the question written, we are in 3 no doubt as to its meaning. However, instances of lexical ambiguity also occur when 7 a word has alternative meanings that are much closer together. On the other hand, the speaker or writer might have intended to claim that the average mort- gage taken out now is twice as big as the average mortgage taken out six years ago, which would simply be a reflection of increasing property prices.
Syntactic ambiguity This occurs when the arrangement of words in a sentence is such that the sentence could be understood in more than one way as expressing more than one proposition. You will probably be familiar with examples of syntactic ambiguity as it is often the basis of jokes and newspaper head- lines that appear odd. The sentence is syntactically ambiguous because it could, consistently with English grammar, be used to express either proposition. But since the sec- ond interpretation is extremely unlikely, it is unlikely that an actual use of this sentence would be ambiguous.
We can easily imagine a real context in which this sentence is ambiguous as to whether the purpose of the cancelled trip was to play golf or whether the trip was cancelled so that the president could play golf. Once we decide the most likely interpretation, we should always rewrite the ambiguous sentence so as to eliminate the ambiguity. Notice that in cases such as this we have to change the sentence quite radically to rid it of the syntactic ambiguity and clarify its meaning. The announcement will be made 9 tomorrow.
The announcement will be 2 made now, the electricity will be cut off tomorrow. Also, the possible interpretations of 6 a sentence may be closely related so that there may not appear to be a 7 very wide difference in meaning. Often we assume that one interpreta- 8 tion is intended without giving any consideration to alternatives. But such 9 differences can be very significant indeed. Suppose someone were to claim: 1 We should not tolerate those homeless people living on our streets. Or they might be saying that the people who do live on the 4 streets should not be allowed to live on the street.
On the other hand, 5 the intended proposition might be that we should not tolerate the fact 6 that there are homeless people living on our streets. That is to say, the 7 view expressed might be critical of a society in which people are forced 8 to live on the streets rather than critical of such people themselves. It is not the same as 4 ambiguity, but it is often mistaken for it. As we 8 saw when considering lexical ambiguity, a word is ambiguous when it 9 has two or more possible and different meanings — thus two or more 40 separate extensions.
The particular meanings might themselves be per- 1 fectly clear and precise. The vagueness of a word, on the other hand, is 2 really a feature of its meaning: the meaning of a word or expression is vague if it is indefinite or uncertain what is conveyed by the word. Sometimes, someone aware of the weakness of their own position will deliberately leave their meaning vague in order to camouflage that weak- ness and to evoke strong feelings of approval or disapproval in their read- ers or listeners.
Many highly charged words that wield rhetorical power in public discourse are used vaguely. It is hard to discern one perfectly exact meaning for each of these words and it would be unrealistic to expect them to have such a meaning. Their extensions tend to include a cluster of objects, beliefs or actions that are not necessarily unified in any precise way. One might be a liberal and not hold all of these beliefs or have all of these characteristics. Indeed, a person might have some or even many of them and not be a liberal.
Here is a whole passage infected with vagueness of the kind we have in mind: Make no mistake, the researchers involved in the highly controversial project to map the human genome are involved in a radical project of unprecedented gravity and spiritual significance. Although in the context of most arguments about legislation and criminality it means illegal drugs, it could also include alcohol, prescription medicines, pain-killers, nicotine and so on. Deliberately vague use of words in such a way constitutes either the rhetorical ploy of trading on an equivocation see pp.
What 2 they are doing is not even comparable to the research that made 3 the atomic bomb possible, for it goes right to the essence of what 4 we are as human beings. Like Dr Frankenstein, they are tinkering 5 with life; they are travelling into unknown and sacred regions as no 6 scientist previously has ever dared. The secret wellsprings of life, 7 of our very being as homo sapiens, have ever remained shut up, 8 concealed by aeons of either blind but cunning and ultimately 9 unfathomable natural processes, or, as some continue to believe 10 despite the showy displays of science and technology, concealed by 1 the very hand of its Author, the Author of Nature Himself.
Clearly they think that there is something dangerous or other- wise ill-advised about the project to map the human genome. But they 6 have not begun to make it clear what the danger is. In a context such as this, with so much at stake, 1 we need to have precise reasons why, despite the promise of medical 2 benefits, the project is dangerous. Things 8 can often be precisely compared with respect to such attributes, however.
Borderline cases can also arise in the case of nouns. In fact vague- 2 ness occurs in many more cases than we might at first think. Is it not merely a 4 town? What about Doncaster? But even the simplest cases can cause misunder- 8 standings. When you receive the pay increase you discover that 40 the rise is only 10p an hour. Primary and secondary connotation The rich secondary connotation of some words provides a further source of vagueness. This rule is called the primary connotation of the term. This will be some set of characteristics, in this case being male and being a sheep which, by definition, everything to which the word applies must have.
The notion of a female ram, for example, is a logical impossibility, a contradiction. However, when we are told that something is a ram, we tend to assume other things about that thing that are not included in the primary connotation: that it is woolly, has horns, lives on a mountainside or in a field, eats grass.
So if you know that something is a ram, it is reasonable to suppose that it has these additional characteristics. Things that fall under the term will generally exhibit these characteristics, but there is no logical contradiction in supposing there to be a thing that falls under the term but lacks a characteristic included under the secondary con- notation. For instance, there is no logical contradiction in supposing that a thing might count as a ram — that is, fulfil the demands of the primary connotation — yet lack some or, indeed, all of these characteristics.
It is not logically impossible that there could be a bald, hornless male sheep that lives in a barn and whose diet consists of potatoes. Why should critical thinkers be interested in the distinction between primary and secondary connotation? The most immediate relevance was demonstrated in our examination of vagueness.
In fact, in the case of vague words, the distinction between primary and secondary connotation tends to break down, or be difficult to draw. Its primary connotation is difficult to pin down and it is full 5 of secondary connotations that can be used to the rhetorical advantage of 6 both those who support and those who oppose feminism. In most cases the primary connotation is in fact false of the object or person in question.
That is, they are not really 7 used to ask a question, but to make a point in an indirect way. However, in many cases the point is neither obvious nor univer- 1 sally agreed. If you encounter rhetorical questions in texts and speech that you are ana- lysing, try to rewrite the question as a declarative sentence. For instance, if someone were to write: Should my right to freedom of speech be limited just because you disagree with me?
To convey the proposition that seems to be intended, we could rewrite the rhetorical question as a declarative sentence: My right to freedom of speech should not be limited just because you disagree with me. You should resist the temptation to employ rhetorical questions in your own arguments.
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Irony Speakers and writers sometimes express their claims using irony. This takes the form of language that, taken literally, would convey the oppo- site of what they wish to convey, or something otherwise very different from it. Consider the following instance: It is pouring with rain, very windy and cold. Mr Ronic is probably being ironic, and intends to comment that the weather is lousy. It is important to be aware of the possibility of irony.
The sentences are implicitly relative. Or consider the one 2 about Aunt Edie? Does the speaker intend to convey that Great Aunt Edie 3 is a fast runner such that she runs at world record pace or that she is a 4 fast runner for a woman of her age? Or something in between, such as that she is faster than the average person? If such sentences are 6 interpreted without the recognition of their implicit relativity, then there 7 is the possibility that they will be interpreted as making a comparison 8 with a group other than that intended by the writer or speaker.
Great 9 Aunt Edie is not a fast runner when compared with Paula Radcliffe and thus interpreted the claim would be false. Once we recog- 3 nise such claims as implicitly relative and interpret them accordingly, they 4 are more likely to have a definite truth value. But not always. Implicit 5 relativity is often compounded by other sources of vagueness. For 6 example, even if we do know what comparison class is being invoked in 7 the case of Aunt Edie, it is by no means clear just how much faster a 8 person must be than the average person of that class in order to be fast 9 relative to it.
As you will see, not all quanti- 6 fiers specify an exact quantity of the thing, rather they provide a rough 7 guide. Now that her claim is clear, you see that it is one with which you are more likely to agree. Suppose, for instance, that someone claims: Some Members of Parliament support the decriminalisation of cannabis use. It could mean that only a handful hold the view described, it could mean that a larger minority of members hold that view. Cases that we 2 use to challenge the truth of a generalising claim are known as counter- examples. Quantifiers and generalisations It is a commonplace for people to say that you can never really gener- alise.
However, this is certainly not true just as it stands. But this is itself a generalisation; so if the claim is true, the claim is false! In any case, it is obvious that some generalisations are true even if they are not very interesting ones. That is, there are counterexamples to the claim that all generalisations are false. What exactly is a generalisation? But we need not be too precise about this. To get a better grasp of which types of generalisations may cause problems during the analysis and assessment of arguments, the main thing we need is to distinguish between hard and soft generalisations.
No doubt the counterexample fanatic will be able to provide us with plenty of exceptions — congestion-free short cuts across Glasgow; labour voters who are keen fox-hunters; the person who had a heart attack while doing their regular work-out at the gym. And they can cite this as a reason to accept the claim that all generalisations are false because one can always find an exception to them. These generalisations are soft 6 generalisations. We use soft generalisations when we want to express 7 the idea that such-and-such is true of certain things normally, typically, 8 generally, usually, on average, for the most part.
But 6 quantifier-free generalisations are not typically intended as hard gener- 7 alisations. If the fanatical anti-generaliser does have a point, we believe, 8 it is a point about rhetoric, not truth. What the anti-generaliser is justi- 9 fiably worried about are generalisations about groups defined by race, 30 ethnicity, nationality, gender, class and sexuality. Suppose that there are 1 two social classes amongst Martians: the Zormons and the Ringons.
Chapter summary than every Zormon. This generalisation is, it must be admitted, true when taken as a soft generalisation. However, it might be argued, it is rhetorically dangerous. There are two reasons. The first reason is that many people are not very clear about the possible ambiguities of such a statement. It might wrongly be taken as a hard generalisation, and furthermore it might wrongly be taken as asserting something about the innate or genetic qualities of Ringons.
In itself, it does not do this. So unless these possible misinter- pretations are deflected by making the exact intended meaning perfectly explicit, this generalisation will remain very provocative and a likely cause of ill-feeling. The second reason is the brute fact that, even if these ambiguities are resolved, generalisations even soft ones about groups of people do often cause people to take offence.
There are times when people take offence at a generalisation about a group and are simply irrational in doing so; no amount of explaining the difference between a soft gener- alisation and a hard one, or the difference between a generalisation about actual facts and one about alleged genetic qualities will change this. Like many kinds of irrationality, this is a natural kind of irrationality that cannot easily be overcome.
No matter how factually true a generalisation may be, it is natural to feel that there is something dehumanising about it. So we cannot reasonably expect that people will always be able to over- come that feeling. Morality requires us to consider the consequences of our actions, and, since speech and writing are types of action, natural though irrational responses to what we say and write must sometimes be taken into account in deciding what we ought to say.
We should not say what is false, but that a proposition is true is not always enough to justify expressing it. Attempts to persuade may be argumentative or non- argumentative. Most of the latter count as rhetoric, which is any attempt to persuade that does not attempt to give good reasons for the belief, desire or action in question, but attempts to motivate that belief, desire or action solely through the power of the words used. The former, on the other hand, persuade us by giving reasons for us to accept a claim or take the action suggested. Good arguments are those that provide us with 2 good reasons to act or to accept a claim.
The proposi- 4 tion expressed by a statement is its factual content, and should 5 insofar as possible be distinguished from the rhetorical force of the 6 sentence. Propositions may implicated by an utterance without 7 being explicitly stated: a proposition is implicated by an utterance 8 when it would reasonably be taken to have been intended. Among 9 the propositions that constitute an argument, one is its conclusion 10 — the proposition argued for — and rest are its premises — the 1 reasons given to accept the conclusion. Words that serve as conclusion indicators and premise indicators offer a helpful 6 but not foolproof guide to doing so successfully.
We should also 7 pay close attention to the context of the text or speech. Setting out 8 arguments in standard form is a five-stage process that enables us 9 to see the form of arguments better and hence, to compare, analyse and assess them more easily. Arguments must be distinguished 1 sharply from explanations: arguments attempt to provide reasons 2 for believing a proposition whose truth is not assumed already to 3 be accepted; explanations assume a certain proposition is already 4 accepted as fact, and attempt to specify the cause.
Quantifying sentences 3 can also cause problems for the interpretation of arguments when 4 they are used inaccurately to express generalisations. There are Chapter summary 5 two types of generalisation: hard and soft. Hard generalisations 6 are true only if they are true without exception.
To avoid mis- 7 interpretation they should be expressed in sentences that use 8 quantifiers such as all, every, no, none, always, never. Soft 9 generalisations are only true of the majority of the class that is 40 the subject of the generalisation. They should be expressed in 1 sentences that use quantifiers such as most, almost all, in most 2 cases, generally, typically, usually. Exercises should pay careful attention to context in order to render the most plausible interpretation of the attempt to persuade.
Where appropriate we should rewrite sentences to make their meaning explicit. Remember that premise and conclusion indicators are not part of those propositions: Example Bob is a dog and all dogs are black. So Bob is black. So Leeds is north of Brighton. No one who is bored is listening. Uncontrolled production of these crops will lead to a collapse of the ecosystem. You need not 7 supply missing premises or change the words used unless it is absolutely 8 necessary to retain the sense of a sentence, but you should omit indicator 9 words: 30 1 Example 2 The Government should ban fox-hunting.
Fox-hunting causes 3 suffering to animals and anything that causes suffering to 4 animals should be banned. Manchester Utd have beaten Arsenal so Chelsea will be top of the league.
This item is not reservable because:
Exercises b Children should not watch television programmes that lack educa- tional merit. Pokemon fails to promote linguistic and cognitive devel- opment and programmes only have educational merit in so far as they promote linguistic and cognitive development. Children should not watch Pokemon. So if we care about the rest of the world, we should curb our consumption.
Rewrite them so as to give the most plausible interpretation. If two or more inter- 2 pretations are equally plausible, give them all. Give examples 3 to illustrate your explanation. Exercises a No one may leave the room until the culprit owns up. For each sentence, if it is true as a hard generali- sation, add an appropriate quantifier to make it a hard generalisation.
If it could only be true as a soft generalisation, add an appropriate quantifier to make it a soft generalisation: Example Passengers must hold a valid ticket before boarding the train. Sometimes this is frustration with ourselves; but it can easily look like 2 frustration with the person giving the argument it can certainly be inter- 3 preted as such by that person! One of the primary aims of training in 4 critical thinking is to learn concepts and techniques that will help us to 5 express clearly what is wrong with an argument, thereby dispelling that 6 frustration.
By helping us to assess arguments more efficiently, this helps 7 us in the pursuit of truth. But also, by becoming more articulate in our 8 criticisms, we become less frustrated, and thereby less bad-tempered.
This 9 can help to smooth out our relationships with other people whereas you 40 might have thought that improving your skill at critical thinking would 1 make you into a disagreeable quibbler. We discuss practical details of argument-reconstruction in Chapter 5. This chapter and the next are mostly concerned with argument assess- ment. Ordinarily, we speak of arguments as being good or bad, strong or weak, valid or invalid, sound or unsound, persuasive or unpersuasive, intelligent or stupid, without having a clear idea of what we mean by these terms, and without clearly distinguishing their meanings.
So not only are we vague when we use one of these terms to criticise the argu- ment; our attempts to explain ourselves by means of the others are still vague. Thus our primary task in this chapter and the next is to explain the basic logical concepts in terms of which assessment is carried out — validity, soundness and inductive force. You may be surprised that detailed discussion of argument assess- ment precedes the detailed discussion of argument-reconstruction in Chapter 5; surely you have to reconstruct an argument before you can assess it?
In fact, it is slightly less straightforward than that: although the final assessment of an argument must await its reconstruction, good reconstruction-practice must be informed by a good grasp of the concepts used in assessment.
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The purpose of the next section is to explain this important point. The principle of charity An argument is a system of propositions: a set of premises advanced in support of a conclusion. People succeed in expressing the propositions they have in mind with varying degrees of clarity. In addition, an argu- ment may depend upon premises that the arguer does not state at all, but which he or she is implicitly assuming.
Furthermore, 3 the arguer is assuming, without explicitly stating, that it is illegal to take 4 such drugs. A premise is left implicit. That is, we try to represent 3 the argument in such a way as to create a perfect match between the 4 propositions that actually constitute the argument and the sentences which represent the argument in standard form. We may employ sentences that more clearly or precisely 1 express the propositions that constitute the argument.
This cannot be an exact science. It 30 cannot be mechanical or foolproof. It calls for judgement, a critical but 1 sympathetic eye or ear and even a certain degree of intuition, of under- 2 standing of people — of the ways people tend to think in given sets of 3 circumstances, and of some typical ways in which people fail to express 4 themselves clearly. One of the most general of these 7 is what we call the principle of charity, which we now explain. Our 40 primary evidence for this, naturally, is the specific words actually used 1 by the arguer.
Beyond this, we look to various sorts of facts about the 2 context or circumstances in which the person employed the words that he or she did. Therefore, he cannot possibly be in St Petersburg by tomorrow. Of course nowadays St Petersburg is only a few hours from Paris by aeroplane. If someone were to give a similar argument regarding some presently living person — the Russian president Vladimir Putin for example — then we would be puzzled.
Since everyone is aware of air travel, nobody thinks that it is impossible to get from Paris to St Petersburg in one day. But suppose these words were given by someone in , referring to Napoleon. Then surely the arguer would be assuming that it is not possible to get from Paris to St Petersburg at such a speed.
Indeed it would have gone without saying, which is precisely why the arguer need not have expressed it explicitly. The fastest way to travel then was by horse. Such facts pertaining to the context in which the argument is given, together with the specific words used by the person, will con- stitute the total evidence you have for reconstructing the argument. In some cases, the context is known, and makes it obvious what the arguer was implicitly assuming. In other cases, we may have to learn more about the context; this happens especially when interpreting historical documents.
And it may happen that one reconstruction represents the argument as a good one, another as a bad one. In such a case, which reconstruction should you prefer? Which should you advance as the reconstruction of the argument? It depends upon your purpose. If you are hoping to convince others that the person is wrong, you are most likely to succeed if you represent it as a bad one. Indeed, this is a very common ploy. In a context like that of a public debate, this is often a good strategy.
For what you are trying to do is to appear, in the eyes of the audience, to get the upper hand. Suppose you are wondering whether some particular proposi- 7 tion is true. You are wondering, for example, whether increasing taxes 8 for the wealthy would lead to a rise in unemployment. Suppose further 9 that you honestly have no idea whether or not this is true. Now suppose 10 that someone attempts to persuade you that this proposition is true by 1 giving you an argument for it.
But you find that this argument admits 2 of being reconstructed in either of two ways. On one reconstruction, the 3 argument is good, that is, it provides a good reason for accepting the 4 proposition as true. On the other reconstruction, however, it is no good at all; you find that the reasons you have represented the person as giving 6 in favour of this proposition do not support it at all.
Suppose you decide 7 on this latter representation of the argument, the one which represents 8 it as bad. But nor 2 can you conclude that the proposition is false. The fact that someone has 3 given a bad argument for some proposition is not, in itself, a reason to 4 reject the proposition as false. For example, someone might argue that 5 since three is a lucky number, there will not be a third world war.
That 6 is a bad argument; it gives you no reason to believe that there will not 7 be a third world war. But fortunately! In short, the 9 fact that someone has given a bad argument for the proposition in ques- 30 tion leaves you in precisely the same position as you were when you 1 started. Since this constitutes a good argument, you are now in a different 6 position; now you do have some indication as to whether or not the propo- 7 sition is true.
In particular, you have a reason for its being true. On this 8 first reconstruction, then, you represent the person as having made a 9 useful contribution to the debate. You now have reasons that you lacked 40 before. Thus, insofar as we engage in critical thinking — insofar as our 1 interest is in discovering the truth of things, and not just in persuading 2 or refuting people — we are most interested to discover good arguments, not bad ones.
That way, we discover reasons for accepting or rejecting particular propositions, advancing the cause of knowledge.
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This is an application of the principle of charity. There is a further reason for observing the principle of charity, which has more to do with ethics than with logic. When you give an argu- ment, you may or may not succeed in expressing yourself clearly, but you do want your listener to try to understand you.
If your listener impatiently seizes upon your words in order to refute your argument as swiftly as possible without taking the trouble to understand you, naturally you feel ill-used, that the person is not being fair to you. You think it wrong, unjust to be treated that way. If so, then we ought to try to be equally receptive to others — to try to understand them, rather than be too eager to refute them or discredit them. When people give arguments, they almost always have some reason or other for what they are saying although, of course, sometimes people do try to persuade us of things — especially to do things like buy Coke — without actually trying to give us good reasons.
People are very seldom completely illogical. But they are seldom very well-practised at expressing their reasons clearly either, and often they are not so interested in clarity as in persuasion or eloquence. Still, beneath it all, they will usually have genuine reasons of some sort in mind, so it seems only right and proper that we should try to bring them to light, to understand what the person is really trying to say.
If we do not attempt this, then we are not really doing the person justice; we are not being as receptive to his or her attempts at communication, as we would surely wish others to be to ours. The principle of charity, however, has a certain limit, beyond which the nature of what we are doing changes somewhat: If our task is to reconstruct the argument actually intended by the person, then we must not go beyond what, based upon the evidence available to us, we may reasonably expect the arguer to have had in mind.
Once we go beyond what we may reasonably assume the arguer to have had in mind, then we are no longer in the business of interpreting their argument. Instead, we have become the arguer. If our concern is with how well a particular person has argued, then we should not overstep this boundary. However, if our concern is simply with the truth of the matter in question, then to overstep this boundary is perfectly all right.
It often happens that, in reconstructing an argument, we hit upon another, similar or related argument for the same conclusion which is better than the one we are reconstructing. If what concerns us is simply finding the best arguments on either side of an issue, then we will want to give a representation of this better argument. Fortunately, logic gives us some very clear answers as to what does 6 make arguments good or bad. Further, truth is the 10 concept in terms of which the logician attempts to explain everything 1 else. Thus, we begin our discussion of the concepts of logic by saying a 2 little bit more about this uniquely important concept.
But for our purposes, we can leave aside 9 those sorts of abstruse philosophical worries as irrelevant. Properly understood, the word should 2 not invite those sorts of controversies. What does it mean to say that this proposition 8 is true? It means, simply, that that is the way things are. To say that the 9 proposition is true is to say nothing more than: yes, fish do live in water. In other words, to say 6 that it is true that fish live in water comes to the same thing as saying 7 that fish live in water.
For these are all known truths. Despite their having done so by different means, both John and Mary have asserted the proposition that fish live in water. But they have asserted the same proposition; they have expressed the same belief. Yet clearly the truth of this proposition has nothing to do with what Mary believes. That depends only on how things stand as regards fish, and what fish do does not depend upon what people think. Arguments are attempts to persuade us — to influence our beliefs and actions — by giving us reasons to believe this or that. Critical Thinking: A Concise Guide will equip students with the concepts and techniques used in the identification, analysis and assessment of arguments.
Through precise and accessible discussion, this book provides the tools to become a successful critical thinker, one who can act and believe in accordance with good reasons, and who can articulate and make explicit those reasons. This fourth edition has been revised and updated throughout, with a new introduction for each chapter and up-to-date topical examples. Particular revisions include: practical reasoning; understanding quantitative data, statistics, and the rhetoric used about them; scientific reasoning; the connection to formal logic and the logic of probability; conditionals; ambiguity; vagueness; slippery slope arguments; and arguments by analogy.
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