Compound Arguments (Chapter 8)

Well, after reading that last blog entry, I bet you thought we were done with argument analysis, didn’t you?

SO DID I! But oh no! Now we move on to the more difficult and tedious compound arguments!! According to the book, “a compound argument contains arguments of two or more different basic types as its parts (193).” As with every other chapter, I think the best way to demonstrate this is with examples. The best kinds of sentences to analyze for such examples are ones which are very polarized and vehement, because they work harder to form actual arguments rather than just talking. So let’s use this article which outlines the evils of abortion and find us some examples.

The first bullet point is a perfect example of a compound linked argument.

(1)<Abortion is never an easy decision,> [but] (2)<women have been making that choice for thousands of years, for many good reasons.> (3) <Whenever a society has sought to outlaw abortions, it has only driven them into back alleys> (4)<where they became dangerous, expensive, and humiliating.>



(2) + (3)


The first premise (1) is something that has to be true for all the other things to be true and analyzed effectively.

The two linked premises, (2) and (3) are reliable because they are based on specific information, this person with knowledge of the background of the subject has claimed them to be true. It is establishing a historical reference for the conclusion, saying that it happens whether legal or not, and that it would continue to happen whatever the legal situation. However, they conclude with (3) by saying that when it is illegal, it is far less appealing and more dangerous. This is a strong argument because the first premise supports the main premises, which supports the conclusion.

Ahhh if only that were all there was to it! No, no, there is more. Let’s move now to a compound convergent argument, which is presented in this paragraph:

(1) <Abortion is terrible, and must be stopped.> (2)<Part of the democratic process is the free discussion of ideas.> (3)<Others are expressing their opinions, and some of them are against mine.> (4)<I should express my opinions, too.> (5)<I will thus support the democratic process.>



(3) (4) (1)



(2) is common knowledge, and is relevant because it is important to know that before you can understand (3).

(1) is an opinion based argument, but because this is an issue of opinions, we will say that it is reliable. (3) and (4) are both observational statements which contribute to the conclusion drawn in (5) in which all the premises come together to form one solid conclusion.


Let’s move on to a compound serial argument, which we find in this paragraph:

(1)<Abortion are “absolutely necessary” in only two cases: the mother’s health or the baby’s health.> (2) <Abortions based on the mother’s health account for 3% of abortions.> (3)<Abortions based on the baby’s health account for 3% of abortions.> (4)<Women don’t feel that abortion is “absolutely necessary.”> (5)<Women feel selfishly inconvenienced by pregnancy.>



(2) + (3)






The first premise is reliable because it is general knowledge– there are no other instances in which someone could correctly say “She HAS TO get an abortion.” It is relevant to the argument because it sets the stage for the next two arguments, (2) and (3) to make sense.

(2) and (3) are reliable because they are based on specific information. They go together to form the point that the number of necessary abortions is very low– they work best as a pair. They are relevant because they prove that the large majority of abortions are NOT necessary, which is what points (4) and (5) talk about.

(4) and (5) are reliable because they are observations, and logical conclusions that comes from all the evidence. they are both strong arguments because they use strong language, but because there is strong evidence to support them, the argument is a strong one.

Our final task is to find a compound divergent argument. This paragraph presents us with just that:

(1)<Many hard battles have been fought to win political and economic equality for women.>(2)< These gains will not be worth much if reproductive choice is denied.> (3)<To be able to choose a safe, legal abortion makes many other options possible.> (4)<Otherwise an accident or a rape can end a woman’s economic and personal freedom.>


/   \

(2)     (3)+(4)

The premise (1) is reliable because it is common knowledge. It is relevant because it is a precursor to the conclusions that it spurs.

(2) is a moderate claim, because the language it uses is not very strong (‘will not be worth much’), so does not need as much evidential support. (3) and (4) together form a strong conclusion.


Compound arguments are a little more difficult to understand and analyze. They are especially a pain to diagram when typing!! Hope this was legible and you were able to understand!


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