When the nail sticks out

rants, raves and randomness

A short guide to arguing logically with me: forming arguments 101

I like to argue and drive home a point. But I don’t necessarily do it to win. When someone comments on my blog, I’d like a healthy but logical argument to learn from another person, not for the sake of arguing and not to win.

However, in most cases, when I see debates online, I am disappointed that people are so convinced of their arguments and argue to win. There seems to be no amount of logical thinking or evidence that will convince them otherwise, and in truth, they are only interested in asserting this point and not really with exchanging ideas and learning from others. Worse, the person commenting attacks the person of the original poster or other commenters he disagrees with.This is a fallacy called ad-hominem and yes, in the heat of the moment, we’ve all done it.

If you are reading on this blog or all the other blogs, for that matter, then there must be something you’d like to learn. Otherwise, if you are so convinced of your omniscience, then why in the world are you still here? And if you are not open to new ideas, albeit ones that challenge yours – then why do you comment? Are you merely looking to pick fights so you can prove your point? So you can prove you can win?  By doing so, you’ve also proven to yourself and others that you are as close-minded, hard and uninteresting as a rock that doesn’t respond to reason.  Spare us. Spare me. Look, if you’re happy being a rock, then by all means! But spare me the soliloquy of a rock.

I am now taking a course in MITx(MIT online through edx) in Philosophy. I found, after the first two weeks, that I am actually looking forward to the  discussions of my online professor, Professor Caspar Hare. He’s not only funny, he speaks with a great accent too. (Is it me or do British speakers sound more “educated” than speakers who have American accent? Now that is open for debate). And he’s kinda cute too:)

Here are the basics of an argument from Caspar Hare’s lessons that the whole world can make a better use of :

An argument has two minimum parts : the premise (P) and the conclusion (C).

They are both defined as string of sentences. The conclusion (C) is the claim that is being established. It’s what is being argued for. The premises (P) are the assumptions that are being argued from.

P1 I am a rock.

———————-

C1 I am a rock.

The premises and conclusions can be more than one :

P1  I am rock.

P2 I am not a rock.

———————-

C1 You’re reading this blog

 

So that’s an argument. But they are not very good arguments.

A good argument has three features. The first of those features is called  validity.

Feature 1 : VALIDITY

Validity is when it is impossible that the premises are true and the conclusion false.

P1 A person is born either male or female.

P2 Tom’s baby is not female.

———————-

C1 Tom’s baby is male.

Or

P1 All Filipinos are Martians

P2 Jet-Li is a Filipino

———————-

C1 Jet Li is  a Martian

If we have valid arguments, then we also have invalid arguments.

An invalid argument is when there is a possible situation in which the premises of the argument are true and their conclusion false.

P1 A person is born either male or female.

P2 Tom’s baby is cute.

———————-

C1 Tom’s baby is female.

Or

P1 All Filipinos are Martians

P2 Jet-Li is a Martian

———————-

C1 Jet Li is  a Filipino

Feature 2 : SOUNDNESS

Just because an argument is valid doesn’t mean it’s sound. Caspare Hare says : An argument is sound when it is valid and its premises are true–all of them.

So while our argument below  is valid:

P1 All Filipinos are Martians

P2 Jet-Li is a Filiipino

———————-

C1 Jet Li is  a Martian

It’s not sound because we know the P1 and P2 are both false.

Feature 3 : POTENTIAL CONVINCINGNESS

It’s not interesting to argue with a rock.

P1 I am a rock.

———————-

C1 I am a rock.

First, the conclusion being established,the argument being argued for is also the assumption being argued from.  If you want to convince someone that you are gay, you are not going to use the conclusion  (C1 You are gay) as the premise (P1 You are gay) . Why? Those who agree with the C1 (You are gay) don’t need convincing that the P1 (You are gay) is also true. No one is going to believe the premise (You are gay) and not believe the conclusion (You are gay). So what is the point of the argument? This is where all else fails in people’s argument for or against God or Why the Philippines is Poor.

Caspar Hare’s example :

Features of a good argument : Validity, Soundness and Potential Convincingness

Features of a good argument : Validity, Soundness and Potential Convincingness

It’s not interesting because the people who believe the conclusion already believe in the premises. You don’t need to convince them!  Which is why you cannot use the Bible or the Torah or the Koran to convince people of God’s existence : those who believe the Bible or the Torah or the Koran must already believe that God exists. On the contrary, you cannot use any holy book to convince a “reasonable agnostic” that God exists, because that reasonable agnostic will most likely not believe P1 as true.

So there. Use this simple guideline when wanting to convince a reasonable someone of your argument. If this doesn’t work, then he’s a rock and you’re better off not wasting your time.

Here’s a few of my course  problems. Feel free to try them.

 

State if each of the following is valid or invalid.

Valid or Invalid?

Valid or Invalid?

 

State if each of the following is sound or unsound.

Sound or unsound?

Sound or unsound?

 

How many valid arguments are there in the box ? How many sound arguments are there in the box?

How many valid arguments are there in the box ? How many sound arguments are there in the box?

How many valid arguments are there in the box ? How many sound arguments are there in the box?

If these kinds of things interest you, then join the class at MIT. The more the merrier 🙂

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Information

This entry was posted on October 18, 2013 by in random, thoughts and tagged , , , , , , , , .
%d bloggers like this: