The goal of most of these assignments throughout the course is to strengthen your ability to deconstruct weak arguments you encounter and construct irrefutable arguments based upon sound reasoning. The first assignment in each module is basic and involves some definitions, the rest of the assignments will be applying the new knowledge and skills.
Deconstruction means to take something apart and look at its? fundamental components to understand how it works (or doesn?t). The basic format for argument deconstruction is to outline in simple terms the major premises and state the conclusion. A premise is a statement of fact that supports an argument, for example,
Premise 1 (Major): All humans are mortal
Premise 2 (Minor) : You are a human.
Conclusion: therfore, you are mortal
If the premises are all true and the argument valid then you can support the claim, but if any of the premises are untrue as stated or the argument is invalid then you have refuted the claim. This may sound simple but it can be vexing. Many professional rhetoricians, pundits and salespeople have many tricks to fool you but in the course of this course you will learn to be less often fooled, of course.
When you deconstruct an argument you must:
1) cleary state each of the the premises
2) state the conclusion
3) and then you need to provide evidence to support or disprove the premises or,
if the argument is invalid,
provide the correct diagnosis of the logical fallacy or mistake in the argument structure.
Note: In terms of evidence you will need at least one bullet proof source for evidence. Sources must be evaluated for bias and facts checked. You are safest using peer reviewed journals as your sources. You can use Cornell’s source evaluation checklis (Links to an external site.)t to begin with and we will explore this in greater detail as the course goes on. You will provide citations for your sources following a standard citation format of your choice. As a review you can check out the Citation Machine (Links to an external site.) for quick guidelines.
Being able to recognize when someone is making an argument and then to tease apart the premises and conclusion is a critical skill that takes a lot of practice to master. Keep in mind an argument is not a passionate support of opposing opinions as common use of the term may indicate, and to the best of your ability you should try to keep emotions out of the process or bias will creep in.
Argument Structure: Valid Vs Sound arguments
Valid just means the logic structure follows the rules of logic and assumes the premises are true.
Sound means that the logic rules have been followed and the premises are proven true. I would add that you must have empirical evidence that the premises are true for this to be scientific as well.
Thus you can have an argument that is Valid but not sound is you can prove one of the premises to be untrue. For example,
All cars run on gas
A Tesla is a car
A Tesla runs on gas
This argument is valid, in that, if the premises were true the conclusion would follow, however, one of the premises is untrue and thus the argument is not sound; valid, but not sound. As evidence to refute this argument I would provide a few electric car examples like those made by Tesla.
How about another example:
Either you are a liberal or you are a conservative.
You do not espouse all the views of a liberal
therefore, you are a conservative
Neither of the premises are true in this case, the first is called a False Dichotomy, a type of logical fallacy that over simplifies a complex issue to 2 opposing choices, and the second premise assumes an all or nothing commitment to belong to a particular political movement which is a form of Slippery Slope logical fallacy. We will study all logical fallacies in detail in a future module but you can check some out here if you like, (Links to an external site.) they are powerful tools of refutation. This argument is not sound since the premises are untrue but it is also invalid because the the minor premise assumes that one must espouse all view to be a member of either movement, which is not true, thus the conclusion does not follow from the premises.
Assignment in 2 parts:
I. Write a definition for each of the following in your own words and provide an example of each.
1. Syllogism (Aristotle)
II. Choose an argument from the Opinion/Editorial section of any news source. Deconstruct the argument in simple terms and diagnose its soundness and validity. Be sure to provide a link to the article and cite sources for evidence supporting or refuting the premises.
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