The Nature of Arguments

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Critical Reasoning for Beginners: week one
Marianne Talbot Department for Continuing Education University of Oxford Michaelmas 2009

Today we shall be looking at: (i)  the nature of arguments (ii)  how to recognise arguments

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=teMlv3ripSM

Definition: ‘Argument’ …. a set of sentences such that… …. one of them is being said to be true… …. the other(s) are being offered as reasons for believing the truth of the one.

An argument:
It is Friday, Marianne always wears jeans on Friday so Marianne will be wearing jeans today.

Q1: List the sentences that make up this argument

It is Friday Marianne always wears jeans on Friday Marianne will be wearing jeans today

Conclusion: the sentence being said to be true Premises: the sentence(s) being offered as reason(s) for believing the one

An argument:
It is Friday, Marianne always wears jeans on Friday so Marianne will be wearing jeans today.

Q2: Identify the conclusion of the argument Q3: Identify the premises of the argument

An argument:
It is Friday, Marianne always wears jeans on Friday so Marianne will be wearing jeans today.

The conclusion is in red The premises are in green

It is important to distinguish arguments from sets of sentences

Sets of sentences that are not arguments might:
a)  have no relation at all between them; b)  have between them a relation other than that characterising an argument

A set of sentences that isn’t an argument:
The sea is salt Melbourne is in Australia

But note how easy it is to make it an argument…..
The sea is salt Therefore Melbourne is in Australia Arguing is something we do with sentences

Which of these sets of sentences are arguments?
1. Towards lunchtime clouds formed and the sky blackened. Then the storm broke. 2. Since Manchester is north of Oxford and Edinburgh is north of Manchester, Edinburgh is north of Oxford. 3. Witches float because witches are made of wood and wood floats....
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