“Take a step back, evaluate what is important, and enjoy life.” (Chapter 7)

Chapter 7 gives us more information about how to evaluate arguments. The best way to demonstrate is to give a few examples.

First, I will analyze a simple argument. That is an argument in which there is one premise, and it leads to one conclusion. For these examples, I will refer to this article about the mysterious Tiger Woods car accident. The first sentence is a simple argument. It reads:

(1) <By Saturday morning, nothing much had changed in the Tiger Woods story,> [which means that] (2) <we were still supposed to believe that his wife, Elin Nordegren, somehow turned one of Tiger’s Nike SQ drivers into the Jaws of Life.>

In this sentence, the diagram would look like this (1) => (2).

Now that we have diagrammed the sentence, we can more easily analyze it. The first thing to question is whether or not the premise is reliable. Because this is a follow-up article, we assume that everyone reading the article has at least a basic knowledge of the original incident. Thus, the premise is a statement of general knowledge– that makes it reliable. Thus, it can support a conclusion, as it does this one.

Next, we look at relevance. According to the book, “a premise is probatively relevant when either by itself or linked with other premises it can contribute to establishin the conclusion (162).” Because the premise is directly related to the conclusion, we can see that it is relevant.

Now we turn our attention to the conclusion. The words ‘we are still supposed to believe,’ and ‘somehow’ show a sarcasm and undermine the strength of the conclusion. This makes it a bold claim, because “a bold claim claims more, and it takes correspondingly more evidence or better reasons to support it (163).” Because there is not much evidence or good reasoning, this bold claim falls flat.

So we see that despite the fact that there is a strong premise, the conclusion weakens the argument. So this is an example of a simple, weak argument.

Let’s take things up a notch now, and look at a more complicated claim. The next paragraph contains a convergent argument:

(1) <Woods was driving a Cadillac Escalade out of his own driveway, which is the same as driving a tank.> (2) <He wasn’t going fast enough to deploy his air bags.> [But we’re supposed to believe that in a rescue worthy of the new series, “Trauma,”] (3)<his wife had to bust a back window to pull her husband to safety after he ran over a fire hydrant and into a tree.>

(1)     (2)

\     /

(3)

First, let’s analyze this argument. The first premise is reliable, because it is common knowledge that Escalades are big and bulky cars that (for all intents and purposes in this discussion) may as well be a tank. It is also relevant, because if he were driving a little Neon or some other, frailer car, it would have been a much different situation as far as the safety of the car and the condition of it after the accident.

The second premise is also reliable because it is common knowledge that a car has to be going at a certain speed in order for the airbags to deploy. And it is relevant because in order to cause most major accidents, one has to be going at speeds higher than that in most situations.

The conclusion is a strong claim because it uses strong language such as ‘had to’ ‘bust’ ‘to safety’. Because it is a strong claim, it needs more evidence to back it up and since the premises do not support the argument, this makes the argument a weak one.

Next, we’ll move on to a linked argument, as follows.

(1)<No one is suggesting for one minute that Tiger Woods’ marriage is some kind of national security issue. Neither is a minor traffic accident in which he was the only person injured.> (2)<But it is a police matter, has been from start, from the time they were called to his home and the most famous athlete on the planet, and the richest, ended up in the hospital because of whatever happened in his insulated Isleworth neighborhood at a time of the night when nothing good ever happens, and you can look that up.>

(3)<If this was a “minor” accident, Mr. and Mrs. Woods could have explained it by now, no problem.>

(1)  +  (3)

(2)

First, let’s analyze the first premise (1). This premise is reliable because it is obvious (aka common knowledge) that neither of these offenses are serious. It is relevant because the author is saying that although these things are not “matters of national security,” there are pertinent reasons that it is a serious offense. Thus, it is relevant.

The second premise (3) is reliable because  it is an observation statement– other celebrities have surely gotten in minor accidents before, admitted it, and moved on. All the avoiding and secrecy makes it obvious that this is no minor incident.

The conclusion (2) uses strong language, with the words ‘has been from the start,’ ‘from the time they were called,’ etc. However, unlike the other two examples, the premises actually support the conclusion. In (2) the author is saying that it is neither a matter of national security, nor is it nothing– it is a police matter for a very public figure. This conclusion is supported by the premise. In (3) the https://wacekstacy.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?action=edit&post=19author is saying that is a serious incident because if it were not it would be out in the open already. This supports the conclusion. Thus, the argument is strong.

For the next few arguments, let’s use this article from the always hilarious stuffwhitepeoplelike.com.

Now let’s try a divergent argument, using this paragraph:

(1)<When you think about tattoo parlors, it conjures up images of sailors, gang members, hepatitis, and spring break.>  (2)<All of these are things that white people do not like, except for sailors but that only counts if they were sailing before Vietnam.>(3)<Yet in spite of this, more and more white people are getting tattoos.>

(1)

/   \

(2) (3)

Let’s start by analyzing the premise. This premise is reliable because it is an observation statement, which the books says are often reliable, but “we need to consider the conditions where the observations were made, as well as whether the observer has normal faculties and is trustworthy (160).” Obviously, this is a joking website, but for the sake of analysis we’ll say that the author is trustworthy on the preferences of white people, considering he has an entire website devoted to them. So we’ll say that the premise is reliable. It is probatively relevant because it contributes to establishing the conclusions– it needs to be true in order for the two conclusions to be of any relevance.

Now let’s look at the conclusions. The first conclusion (2) uses strong language, saying things like ‘all of these things’ and ‘do not.’ The second conclusion (3) uses strong language, too using the words ‘more and more.’ Thus, these are both bold claims, which means the evidence needs to securely back them up. The premise supports the first conclusion (2) because all the things listed, which tattoo parlors are supposed to conjure, are all very negative so it would make sense that white people do not like them. The premise does not support the second conclusion (3) because if tattoos really did conjure images of all those negative things, people would not continue getting them. So the first conclusion is strong, and the second is weak.

Finally, for our last example, I will analyze a serial argument. I will analyze this paragraph:

(1)<A white person getting a tattoo is a major step in their life> [as it] (2)<presupposes that their taste at this given moment is good enough to sustain them for the rest of their lives.> (3)<This is why you don’t see a lot of white people with R.E.M. or Strokes tattoos.>

(1) => (2) => (3)

The first premise (1) is reliable because it is an observed statement, which we have established are reliable form this author. It is relevant because it allows the other statements to be true.

The intermediate premise (2) is reliable because it is common knowledge, one only gets a tattoo of something that they feel they will enjoy for the rest of their lives. It is relevant because it directly explains the conclusion (3).

The conclusion is a strong claim, because it uses strong language. However, it has ample support from the premises, so we see that this is a strong arguement.

 

Hopefully our understanding of arguments and what makes them weak or strong is a little fuller now! I can’t hardly wait to see what the next chapter brings.

The conclusion

The Intermediate

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