# CHAPTER 9 DIAGRAMMING DEBATES. What You ll Learn in this Chapter

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1 1 CHAPTER 9 DIAGRAMMING DEBATES What You ll Learn in this Chapter So far, we ve learned how to analyze and evaluate arguments as they stand alone. Frequently, however, arguments are interrelated, with one individual offering an argument in support of a conclusion, another individual advancing an argument against that conclusion, the first individual responding to the second individual s argument, and so on. Frequently, in other words, we re faced with a debate, or a set of interrelated, opposing arguments for and against a given position. In this chapter, we ll learn how to diagram debates by employing a technique developed by David Kelley in The Art of Reasoning. 1 This will allow us to better understand how competing positions in a debate are related to each other. Example 1 Diagramming Debates Let s start our study of debates by eavesdropping on a conversation between and, two philosophy majors. : Symbolic Logic is a useful course. : Ethics is a useful course. Can you see how we don t have an actual disagreement here? Symbolic Logic and Ethics can both be useful courses and so we aren t confronted with a real debate. In order for a real debate to arise, the competing sides must advance positions that are genuinely incompatible with each other. Let s represent this fact in the following table: Symbolic Logic is a useful course. These positions are not incompatible and so we don t have a debate. Ethics is a useful course. The conversation continues as follows: : It s important to study the Ancient Greek philosophy because that s where Whether or not we end up with a debate, is advancing an argument here. Let s diagram it, letting refer to s conclusion about Greek philosophy, AG2 refer to s premise about Greek (We ll continue this convention, just to keep things straight. A will indicate that a position is being advanced by and G will 1 David Kelly, pages (Kelly, The Art of Reasoning Third Edition, W.W. Norton & Company, New York London, 1998)

2 2 indicate that the position is about ancient Greek When we represent Brenda s argument about Greek philosophy, we ll represent Brenda with B. ) It s important to study the Ancient Greek philosophy because that s where Western Philosophy AG2 At this point, sets forth the following argument of her own: : It isn t important to philosophy because it s irrelevant to contemporary philosophical debates. And now we have a debate because and are defending genuinely incompatible positions. In fact, s conclusion is simply the opposite of s. We could, if we wished, diagram s argument separately, but this wouldn t allow us to represent the way in which s reasoning relates to s. In order to diagram this inter-relationship, we simply need one piece of new notation. If position P1 is a reason to reject position P2, we ll draw an arrow with a strike through it going from P1 to P2, like this: P1 = P2 is a reason to reject P2. P2 Let s call this an outference arrow instead of an inference arrow. Because s conclusion is a reason to reject s, we can draw an outference arrow from to BG1, and because s conclusion is a reason to reject s, we can draw and outference arrow from BG1 to. The debate would then be represented as follows:

3 3 It s important to study the Ancient Greek philosophy because that s where Western Philosophy Representing Rejections with Outference Arrows AG2 It isn t important to philosophy because it s irrelevant to contemporary philosophical debates. BG1. It s not important to. Ancient Greek philosophy is irrelevant to contemporary philosophical debates. Not surprisingly, of course, wants to respond to s argument. Here s what says: : I don t agree with your reasoning. How can you say that Ancient Greek philosophy is irrelevant to contemporary philosophical debates? If you don t understand the history of a philosophical debate then you can t really understand the debate. Can you see what s going on here? is criticizing s premise. We can represent this in our diagram by drawing an outference arrow from s claim to s premise. Challenging a Premise AG3 BG1. It s not important to AG3. If you don t understand the history of a philosophical debate then you can t really understand the debate. AG2. Ancient Greek philosophy is irrelevant to contemporary philosophical debates.

4 4 now respond s to s original argument as follows: : And I don t agree with your reasoning. Just because Western Philosophy began in ancient Greece, it doesn t follow that it s important to study Ancient Greek In general, the fact that a discipline began with a certain body of knowledge doesn t make that body of knowledge important or relevant today. Chemists don t think it s important to study alchemy. Do you see how is criticizing s argument? She isn t disagreeing with a premise, but is rather challenging s inference. thinks that the importance of Ancient Greek philosophy stems from the fact that began in ancient Greece. agrees that began in ancient Greece but denies that this bestows any particular importance on Ancient Greek In order to represent the criticism of an inference, we supply the missing premise that s needed to perfect the challenged inference and we represent the criticism as challenging that missing premise. In this case, is assuming that it s important to study the origins of a discipline, and is disagreeing with that. Challenging an Inference BG3 AG3 BG1. It s not important to AG3. If you don t understand the history of a philosophical debate then you can t really understand the debate. AGa. it s important to study the origins of a discipline AG2 + AGa. Ancient Greek philosophy is irrelevant to contemporary philosophical debates. BG3: The fact that a discipline began with a certain body of knowledge doesn t make that body of knowledge important or relevant today. Now that we know how to represent the fact that conclusions are incompatible, how to show that a premise is being criticized, and how to indicate that an inference is being challenged, we have all the skills necessary to represent debates.

5 5 Example 2 Let s see one more debate in action. This time, and are disagreeing about who s the best professor in the philosophy department. Take a look at how their conversation evolves. Dr. Jones is the best philosophy professor in the department. Dr. Smith is the best philosophy professor in the department.. Jones is best professor. No, Jones is obviously the best. After all, students who take her courses learn how to write well.. Students who take Jones courses learn how to write well.. Smith is best professor. Do they really learn how to write well? I ve found that students who take Jones courses don t get higher grades on papers in subsequent courses than any other students. BP3. Students who take Jones courses don t get higher grades on papers in subsequent courses than any other students. And besides, Smith has his students read recently published philosophy articles. BP3. Smith has students read recently published philosophy articles.

6 6 I don t think that matters. It s more important for students to read the classic works of philosophy than it is for them to read contemporary articles. BP3 + BPa BPa. The best professors will have their students read recently published articles.. It s more important for students to read the classic works of philosophy than it is for them to read contemporary articles. Can you see how and are advancing incompatible conclusions, how has challenged s premise, and how has challenged s inference? So far, and s debate about professors has been developed to the same extent as and s earlier debate about Greek Philosophy. But of course debates can continue. Let s see how this conversation evolves. BP5 BP4 BP3 + BPa No, I disagree. Contemporary philosophical work is more important than classic philosophical works because contemporary work deals with contemporary issues. BP4. Contemporary philosophical work is more important than classic philosophical works. BP5. Contemporary work deals with contemporary issues.

7 7 Well, be that as it may, I still think that students who take Jones courses learn how to write well. It doesn t matter that students who take Jones courses don t get higher grades on papers in later courses than other students because most of the professors here are easy graders anyway. + BPa BP5 BP4 BP3 + BPa BPa. Grades on papers accurately reflect writing ability.. Most of the professors are easy graders. Can you see how Brenda advanced an argument to challenge s criticism of Brenda s inference, and how challenged Brenda s challenge of s premise? This sort of pattern, with a challenge that s met with a challenge that s met with a challenge and so on indefinitely, is typical of extended debates. Summary This chapter showed us how to diagram debates by using outference arrows to: indicate that two positions are incompatible, represent the criticism of a premise, and capture the criticism of an inference by framing it as a criticism of the assumed premise necessary to perfect the inference.

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