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Evaluating Arguments

Refuting Arguments
Two questions to ask:
1. Does the conclusion follow from the premises?
2. Should the premises be accepted as true?

1. Conclusion follows from premises


Corresponding Criticism
Show that conclusion doesnt follow from the premises

2. Premises are true


Corresponding Criticism
Show that premises are false or doubtful
Refuting Arguments...
(1) If AIDS is harmless, then we need not take precautions
against it.
(2) AIDS is harmless.
We need not take precautions against AIDS.

(1) Any disease that threatens many lives is worth our


concern.
(2) Mumps is worth our concern.
Mumps is a disease that threatens many lives.
Conclusion doesnt follow from the
Premises
The Counterexample Method
A counterexample to a claim is an argument that fits the same
pattern
To show that the conclusion of an argument does not follow from
the premises, you should:
1. Determine the pattern of the argument you wish to criticize,
2. Make up a new argument, with
a. the same pattern,
b. obviously true premises, and
c. an obviously false conclusion.
Conclusion doesnt follow from the
Premises...
(1) All good teachers treat students with respect.
(2) All who treat students with respect listen to what
students say.
All who listen to what students say are good teachers.
How to Show that a Premise is False
or Dubious?
1) If an effective cure for AIDS is available, the
government should provide it to all who need it but
cant afford it.
2) An effective cure for AIDS is available.
The government should provide it to all who need it but
cant afford it.
How to Show that a Premise is False
or Dubious?...
Appeal to personal experience
Appeal to common knowledge
Appeal to a reputable source
Show contradiction between premises
Show that a premise is based on an unwarranted
assumption
Giving Counterexamples to Premises
that Generalize
Perhaps the most straightforward criticism of a premise
is a counterexample to a universal generalization.
All lying is wrong; No sea animals are mammals
All abortion should be illegal, using the premise All
killing of human beings is wrong
Giving Counterexamples to Premises
that Generalize...
Any practice that is harmful should be illegal.
Good Counterexample
Neglecting to exercise
Eating many doughnuts

Controversial, Borderline Counterexample


Hang gliding
Challenging an if-then Premise
Try to think of ways the first thing could occur without
the second occurring.
If birth rates continue to increase, then the world will
become overcrowded
What if death rates increase more rapidly than birthrates?
What if people start colonizing other planets?
Importance of Sufficient Evidence
Get high-speed Internet access by satellite. Its fast,
reliable, and wont tie up your phone lines.
Refute or Weaken the Argument
Why should I go to college? It costs a fortune, its
boring, and I can get a high-paying job in construction
without a college education.
Evaluating Inductive
Arguments
Inductive Reasoning
Inductive logic is the part of logic that is concerned
with tests for the strength and weakness of arguments.
A strong argument is one in which it is probable
(but not necessary) that if the premises are true,
then the conclusion is true.
A weak argument is one in which it is not
probable that if the premises are true, then the
conclusion is true.
Inductive Reasoning...
Ninety percent of 40-year-old American women live to
be at least 50. Helen is a 40-year-old American woman.
So, Helen will live to be at least 50.
Forty percent of 30-year-old American women live to be
80. Alice is a 30-year-old American woman. So, Alice will
live to be 80.
Inductive Reasoning...
A cogent argument is a strong argument in which
all of the premises are true.
An uncogent argument is either a weak argument
or a strong argument with at least one false premise.
Contrasting Induction and Deduction
A sound argument cannot have a false conclusion, but a
cogent argument can have a false conclusion.
Ninety percent of the cars in the parking lot were vandalized
last night. My car was in the parking lot. So, my car was
vandalized last night.
Validity is an all-or-nothing affair; it does not come in
degrees.
Although every argument with a valid form is valid, the
strength of an argument is not ensured by its form.
Statistical Syllogism
Statistical Syllogism
Ninety-five percent of women over 30 years of age cannot run
the mile in under 5 minutes. Rebekah is a woman over 30
years of age. Hence, Rebekah cannot run the mile in under 5
minutes.
1. _______percent of A are B.
2. c is an A.
So, 3. c is a B.
Statistical Syllogism...
Eighty percent of women over 30 who are world-class
marathoners can run the mile in under 5 minutes.
Rebekah is a woman over 30 who is a worldclass
marathoner. Therefore, Rebekah can run the mile in
under 5 minutes.
Statistical Syllogism...
The relevant evidence is readily available, and most people are aware
of it. The arguer is not aware of it, but his ignorance is excusable for
some reason (e.g., due to illness or other circumstances beyond his
control, he has been isolated from the ordinary sources of information).

The relevant evidence is readily available, and most people are aware
of it. The arguer is not aware of it, but her ignorance is culpable (i.e.,
she should be aware of it).

The relevant evidence is available but only through some investigation


(e.g., a trip to the library), and the arguer is not aware of the evidence.