3.1 Assessing arguments

Analysing an argument in terms of its claims and premises in itself tells us little. What it does do, however, is make it easier for us to judge or weigh the argument in at least two ways. First, we can examine each premise to decide whether it should be accepted. Second, we can begin to examine the relationship between the premises and the claim. In other words, we can question whether the premises which we are willing to accept make the claim believable or whether the premises could be accepted and the claim still rejected.

This second notion, the relationship between the premises and claim, is called ‘inference’, and we will be looking at it a lot more closely in subsequent posts. Although there are some specific techniques to help us examine inference, seeing it is, in large part, a natural skill of rational creatures, and we all do it unconsciously everyday in many ordinary ways. It is possible without any formal training whatsoever to make a judgment about whether you find a claim believable or not based on premises. What requires practice, and usually some degree of tuition, is the means by which to articulate our response.

To practice assessing an argument, re-read the argument in exercise 3 and your answers, then try exercise 3.1 here. Only after that should you engage with the answer key and notes.

Alternatively, continue reading the book…

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