# Three Kinds of Arguments

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1 Chapter 27 Three Kinds of Arguments Arguments in general We ve been focusing on Moleculan-analyzable arguments for several chapters, but now we want to take a step back and look at the big picture, at arguments in general. If you think back to Chapters 21 and 22, where we last dealt with arguments per se as opposed to Moleculan-analyzable arguments then you ll recall the definition of argument (as the term is used in logic) that we gave there: An argument is a group of two or more statements, all but one of which (the premises) are meant to persuade someone that the remaining one (the conclusion) is rationally acceptable. And you will recall the methods we developed in Chapter 22 for recognizing and standardizing arguments. If you don t remember this material, then you should review it right now, as it will be useful for understanding this chapter and those that follow. All arguments can be translated into Moleculan, and so in that sense all arguments are potentially Moleculan arguments. But there are lots of them that aren t Moleculan-analyzable. In fact, I would venture to predict that the vast majority of the arguments you will meet in everyday life will not be Moleculan-analyzable. That s why we re going to turn from our exclusive focus on Moleculan-analyzable arguments to consider some other kinds of arguments. Here s an example of a non-moleculan-analyzable argument: All pigs are mammals. (1) All mammals are vertebrates. All pigs are vertebrates. This argument appears to be a perfectly good one. (It is sound, in fact.) But if we were to translate it into Moleculan, we would get this: Interpretation: A: All pigs are mammals. B: All mammals are vertebrates. C: All pigs are vertebrates. A B C

2 LOGIC I: TOOLS FOR THINKING That s not very useful, is it? Our Moleculan argument isn t valid, since ( A & B ) C isn t a tautology. But argument (1) is valid. (You ll have to take my word for it.) So it is an example of an argument whose validity cannot be analyzed successfully in Moleculan. It s in that sense that we call it a non-moleculan-analyzable argument. So back we go to arguments in general. In this chapter we will study three kinds of arguments. Understanding them will help you understand a great many of the arguments you meet the vast majority, in all likelihood. Before turning to the three kinds of arguments, however, there is a term which must be defined. We say that an argument is cogent if its premises are good and its reasoning is good. Note that the standards for goodness in premises and conclusions differ among the three kinds of arguments as we ll see. Clearly, a sound Moleculan argument is always a cogent argument, since soundness requires true premises (good premises) and valid reasoning (good reasoning). As we shall see, there are cogent arguments that aren t sound not because there s anything wrong with them, but because they have patterns of reasoning which are good but not valid. If this seems confusing, then press on through the chapter and all should become clearer. For now, just remember that a cogent argument is one with good premises and good reasoning, and that the term cogent can be applied to good arguments of any of the three kinds that we re about to study, whereas the terms sound and valid don t apply to all types of arguments. Deductive arguments The first kind of argument we ll consider is the deductive argument. Moleculananalyzable arguments are deductive arguments, so this is the type of argument with which you are most familiar at this stage. A deductive argument is an argument which, if it is cogent, shows that its conclusion must be true. What does it mean for a deductive argument to be cogent? To have good premises, a deductive argument must simply have premises that are all true. To have good reasoning, a deductive argument must be valid. That is, it must not be possible for an argument of its form to have true premises and a false conclusion. In other words, the requirements for cogency in a deductive argument are the same as the requirements for soundness. All cogent deductive arguments are sound and all sound arguments are cogent deductive arguments. However, we use the terms sound and valid only of deductive arguments, while cogent is used of all three kinds of arguments. Not all deductive arguments are Moleculan-analyzable arguments. Recall argument (1) from earlier in this chapter. It is a valid and sound deductive argument, but, as we noted, it is not Moleculan-analyzable. It happens to be what s called a categorical syllogism. There are many other logical systems besides Moleculan which help us to assess other varieties of deductive arguments. One such system provides a set of rules for testing categorical syllogisms for validity. Inductive arguments The second kind of argument is the inductive argument. An inductive argument is one 226

3 CHAPTER 27: THREE KINDS OF ARGUMENTS that, if it is cogent, shows that its conclusion is probably true. That is, a cogent inductive argument lends weight to its conclusion, but does not show that its conclusion absolutely has to be true. It doesn t manage to give its conclusion certainty, the way a deductive argument does if it is sound. Here s an example of a cogent inductive argument: Most human beings are right-handed. (2) Mr. Brown is a human being. Mr. Brown is right-handed. Is argument (2) valid? No. It is possible for the premises to be true and the conclusion to be false. But is this argument worthless, then? Not at all. It shows that its conclusion is probably true, based on the premises. Most human beings are right-handed. So Mr. Brown s being a human being makes it likely that he is right-handed. For an inductive argument to be cogent, two things must be true of it: Its premises have to be true (just as in the case of deductive arguments), and its pattern of reasoning must guarantee that if the premises are true, the conclusion will be probable. We refer to such a pattern of reasoning in an inductive argument as strong reasoning. Notice that this requirement of reasoning that demonstrates probability is a weaker requirement than the requirement for validity, the standard of reasoning applicable to deductive arguments. There are a great many varieties of inductive arguments. Most of the arguments we use on a daily basis are inductive. In fact, most of what we know about the world is based on inductive arguments. What these arguments all have in common is that they provide some evidence that the conclusion is true, but cannot prove the conclusion to be true beyond all doubt. Conductive arguments The third kind of argument is the conductive argument. This is an argument that involves looking at evidence on both sides of a question, and weighing it in the balance. Such arguments, like inductive arguments, are very common in everyday life. Here s an example: I could use a haircut pretty soon. (3) I m so busy right now that I d rather not get my hair cut this week. However, I absolutely must get gas for my car this week, and that will take me close to the barbershop, which is otherwise out of my way. I should get a haircut this week. In this case, someone is probably reasoning with himself, trying to figure out whether to go to the barbershop this week to get a haircut. His primary concern is with the time that a haircut will take, but he is also trying to balance such factors as his need for a haircut and his need to get gas for his car. His conclusion, after weighing all the arguments for and against, is that he should go for a haircut this week. If deductive arguments, at best, show that their conclusions are certain, and if inductive 227

4 LOGIC I: TOOLS FOR THINKING arguments, at best, show that their conclusions are probable, then what do conductive arguments show about their conclusions? When a conductive argument is cogent, it shows that its conclusion is to be preferred over one or more alternative conclusions. So while deductive arguments have the potential to show that their conclusions are certain, and inductive arguments have the potential to show that their conclusions are probable, conductive arguments can only show their conclusions to be preferable, or to be better than some other conclusions. What is required for a conductive argument to be cogent? First, its premises must be true. Second, they must be complete. That is, to be cogent, a conductive argument must take into account all the relevant information. Third, it must correctly weigh all the premises in the balance, so that the correct conclusion is drawn from them. There is some special terminology used with conductive arguments which you should know. You ve probably already noticed something that s a bit odd about conductive arguments. They include premises that do not favor their conclusions! That is, they take into account premises which weigh both for and against their conclusions; these are known as, respectively, considerations and counter-considerations. In informal speech, we often refer to these two kinds of premises as pros and cons, but beware: Pros aren t necessarily considerations, and cons aren t necessarily counterconsiderations. Pros are premises that support an answer of yes to some yes-no question, while cons are premises that support a no answer. If the yes answer is the conclusion of a conductive argument, then the pros will be considerations and the cons counter-considerations, but if the conclusion that is reached is no, pros and cons will be the other way round. Let s apply this terminology to argument (3). Which premises are considerations and which are counter-considerations? The first and third premises support the conclusion that is eventually drawn in the argument, so they are considerations. The second premise opposes the conclusion, so it is a counter-consideration. Which premises are pros and which are cons? The yes-no question being answered by the argument is, Should I get a haircut this week? The premises that support an aswer of yes to this question are the first and third; support for a no answer comes from the second premise. So premises 1 and 3 are pros, and premise 2 is a con. In this case, the pros are the considerations, and the cons are the counter-considerations. That s because the conclusion of the argument, which is supported by the considerations, is an affirmative answer to the question. If, on the other hand, the conclusion of the argument had been that I should not get a haircut this week, then the considerations would be cons and the counter-considerations would be pros. Conductive arguments arise in many contexts, but they are most common in two specific situations. First, they arise very frequently when someone is trying to make a decision as to what to do (that is, a practical decision). That s because decisions are frequently hard to make, with factors favoring two or more courses of action. Such factors must be weighed in the balance, in a process of conductive reasoning. The second situation in which conductive reasoning is especially common is that in which someone is trying to interpret something, usually something that someone has said or written. You see this, for example, in Bible interpretation. There are some things which the Bible clearly does or does not teach. It clearly does not teach, for example, that all men go to heaven when they die, and it clearly does teach that stealing things is wrong. But there are other questions where it is less clear what the Bible teaches, and in these, conductive reasoning is often needed to help us decide which of several interpretations is to be preferred. 228

6 LOGIC I: TOOLS FOR THINKING because knowing that your argument was conductive would tell you not to hold your position as something definite, certain, and provable, but as something that involved a judgment call that might legitimately be differed with. Some people are very uncomfortable with admitting that there is any room for doubt about the conclusions they hold and believe, and so they resist recognizing that many of their beliefs have been arrived at inductively or conductively. They seem to think that if there is any possibility of their being mistaken, then knowing anything is impossible. In short, they seem to believe that to know something, you must know it on deductively certain grounds. But this is clearly a mistake, since we constantly act on the basis of knowledge that is arrived at inductively or even conductively. For instance, are you sitting on something right now? If so, why did you sit on it? Did you know with certainty that it would hold you up? Can you prove that there isn t a huge sink-hole underneath you right now that s about to open up so that you ll fall in and perish? Of course not. We constantly place ourselves in situations in which we have no certain knowledge that we re safe, and that s perfectly reasonable and right because we have probable knowledge. I can know with a degree of probability that makes it right to say that I know that it s safe for me to sit on the chair I m sitting on, even though I can t prove that with complete certainty. And the same applies to many other areas of our knowledge. So to summarize what we ve said, we will avoid various errors if we keep the three kinds of arguments distinct in our minds, and we may also avoid stirring up strife. Those are strong reasons to be clear in our minds about the three kinds of arguments. Terms and concepts discussed in this chapter arguments in general (review) non-moleculan-analyzable arguments cogency deductive arguments deductive arguments as implying certainty cogency for deductive arguments non-moleculan deductive arguments inductive arguments inductive arguments as implying probability cogency for inductive arguments strong reasoning conductive arguments conductive arguments as implying preferability cogency for conductive arguments considerations and counter-considerations pros and cons areas in which conductive arguments are common distinguishing among the three kinds 230

7 CHAPTER 27: THREE KINDS OF ARGUMENTS Exercises Indicate which of the three kinds each of these arguments is, and give a reason for your answer: 1. Of 2,019 people interviewed, 53% said they would vote for Senator Riffraff. So we think Senator Riffraff is going to win the election. 2. On the one hand, the students didn t do very well on their other tests, so they could really use another grade for this marking period. On the other hand, they all need a break pretty badly. Furthermore, they would prefer that I cancel their last test. So I m canceling it. 3. Henrietta is either in the computer room or in the study hall upstairs. She s not in study hall. Therefore, she is in the computer room. 4. All pumpkins are gourds. All gourds are vegetables. So all pumpkins are vegetables. 5. Students are like prisoners, in that they are not free to move around as they like. Prisoners get free, unlimited telephone use. So students should get that, too. 6. Dad would call from the hospital if Grandma s condition worsened. He hasn t called. So Grandma must be doing all right. 7. Cats are useless. Molly is a cat. Ergo, Molly is useless Most kids my age dislike spinach, so I guess I dislike spinach. 9. Bob said, I ll see you later. That might mean that he s planning to go to the game, and thought I was going to be there. Or he might have been referring to seeing me tomorrow at school. I think I told him I wouldn t be at the game. And I thought Tom said Bob wasn t going. So he must have meant tomorrow. 10. Every single one of my numerous friends is planning to vote for Congressman Sponge, so I think he s going to win. 11. There s nothing in the paper today about World War III breaking out, so I m guessing it hasn t started. 12. Dr. Klamp has six advanced degrees in physics, astronomy, and geology. He says that the earth is 4.5 billion years old. He obviously knows what he s talking about. That s why I think the earth is that old. 13. Fed Chairman Greenspan says the economy is slowing down, so I guess I ll lose my job. 1 Ergo is Latin for therefore. 231

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