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Philosophy 103: Introduction to Logic
The Structure of Arguments
Abstract: The concept of an argument is discussed together with the related concepts of premiss, conclusion, inference, entailment, proposition, and statement.

I. We have seen that one main branch of philosophy is epistemology and one main branch of epistemology is logic.
A. What is epistemology?
B. What is logic? Simply put, the purpose of logic is to sort out the good arguments from the poor ones.
II. So the chief concern of logic is the structure of an argument.
A. Every argument in logic has a structure, and every argument can be described in terms of this structure.
1. Argument: any group of propositions of which one is claimed to follow logically from the others.
a. In logic, the normal sense of "argument," such as my neighbor yelling to me about my trashcans is not termed "an argument" in logic.
b. By "argument," we mean a demonstration or a proof of some statement, not emotional language. E.g., "That bird is a crow; therefore, it's black."
2. The central parts of an argument include ...
a. Premiss: (more usually spelled "premise") a proposition which gives reasons, grounds, or evidence for accepting some other proposition, called the conclusion.
b. Conclusion: a proposition, which is purported to be established on the basis of other propositions.
B. Consider the following example of an argument paraphrased from an argument given by Fritz Perls in In and Out of the Garbage Pail.
If we set our ideals too high, then we will not meet those ideals.
If we do not meet those ideals, then we are less than we could be.
If we are less than we could be, then we feel inferior.
If we set ideals too high, then we feel inferior.
1. By convention, the reasons or premisses are set above a line that separates the premisses from the conclusion. The line is sometimes thought of as symbolizing the word "therefore" in ordinary language.
2. As you read the passage and come to understand it, you are undergoing a psychological process called "making the inference."
a. An inference is the reasoning process by which a logical relation is understood.
b. The logical relation is considered valid (good) or not valid (not good) even if we do not understand the inference right away. In other words, it is convenient to consider the logical relation as not being dependant for its validity on the psychological process of an inference.
c. In this manner, logic is not considered as "the science of reasoning." It is prescriptive, as discussed in a previous class.
3. So, this logical relation between the premisses and conclusion of Perl's argument holds regardless of whether we pay attention or not.
a. Using the bold letters, we can symbolize his argument as follows:
H N
N L
L I
H I
b. This kind of logical relation is called an entailment.
An entailment is a logical relation between or among propositions such that the truth of one proposition is determined by the truth of another proposition or other propositions, and this determination is a function solely of the meaning and syntax of the propositions concerned.
c. Another way to remember the difference between an inference and an entailment is to note that people infer something, and propositions entail something.
d. The argument structure is the sum and substance of logic. All that remain in this course is to sketch out a bit of what this means. (Note that Perls', argument has a good structure, so if the conclusion is false, one of the premisses has to be false.)
III. We have spoken earlier of the relation between or among propositions. What is a proposition or statement (we will use these words interchangeably)?
A. Statement: a verbal expression that can be regarded as true or false (but not both). Hence, a statement or a proposition is a sentence with a truth-value. We can still regard a sentence as a statement even if the truth-value of the statement is not known.
B. Hence logic is just concerned with those statements that have truth-values. (There is very much of life that is irrelevant to logic.)
Consider the confusion that would result if we considered the following sentences as statements:
1. "Good morning." (What's so good about it?)
2. "You are looking good today." (Well, I just saw my doctor and ...)
3. "What is so rare as a day in June? Then, if ever, come perfect days..." (Well, I don't know about that.)
4. To a waiter: "I'd like a cup of coffee." (Yeah, but I think bigger, I'd like a BMW.)
Thus, phatic communication, greetings, commands, requests, and poetry, among other uses of language, are not mean to be taken as statements.
C. Which of the following sentences are statements?
1. There is iron ore on the other side of Pluto.
2. Tomorrow, it will rain.
3. Open the door, please.
4. Whales are reptiles.
5. "Yond' Cassius has a lean and hungry look."
6. Pegasus has wings.
7. You should vote in all important elections.
IV. More distinctions with regard to statements are worth suggesting.
A. Consider whether there are two statements in the box:

A Republican is President (of the U.S.).

A Republican is President (of the U.S.).

1. Aside from the ambiguity of when the statements are uttered, of which President is being spoken, and so on, we would say that there is one statement and two sentences in the box. Sometimes logicians make a distinction between a sentence token (the ink, chalk marks, or pixels) and a sentence type (the meaning of the marks).
2. Every statement comes with an implicit time, place, and reference.
B. Summary of the distinction between a sentence and a statement assumes that adequate synonymy of expression and translation between languages is possible.
1. One statement can be expressed by two different sentences. For example, the sentence "The cup is half-empty." expresses the same statement as "The cup is half-full."
A sentence can express different statements at different times. For example, the sentence "A Democrat is the U.S. President" as expressed in 1962 and 2002 is two different statements.
3. A statement is independent of the language in which it is asserted, but a sentence is not. For example, the sentences "Das ist aber viel!' and "But that is a lot" express the same statement, ceteris paribus.
4. A sentence can express an argument composed of several statements.

For example, the sentence "The graphical method of solving a system of equations is an approximation, since reading the point of intersection depends on the accuracy with which the lines are drawn and on the ability to interpret the coordinates of the point" can be interpreted as two or three different statements depending on how we wish to analyze it. Logic Homepage


 
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