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## The University of Auckland

Skip to 0 minutes and 14 seconds You should now know what statements and arguments are. Basically, statements are sentences that are either true or false. And arguments are ways of combining statements so as to make a point by providing premises, the reasons, intended to support a conclusion. When you encounter arguments in the wild, it becomes difficult to isolate the premises from the conclusion and to isolate sentences that are actually part of the argument. And that’s why it’s very useful for us to agree on a systematic way of presenting arguments. And we’ll do that before we can analyse them. We call this a standard form. Before you start evaluating arguments, your first task will be to put them in standard form.

Skip to 0 minutes and 56 seconds The standard form of an argument is a way of presenting the argument which makes clear which statements are premises, how many premises there are, and which statements is the conclusion. In standard form, the conclusion of the argument is listed last. A standard form looks like this– premise 1, premise 2, and so on for as many premises as there are– therefore, conclusion. For example, here’s a very simple argument presented in standard form. Premise 1– I’m having a bad day today. Premise 2– I only have bad days on Mondays. Therefore, conclusion– today is Monday. To illustrate why putting an argument in standard form is useful, let’s see the kind of arguments you might encounter in the wild– for instance, on YouTube.

Skip to 1 minute and 50 seconds For this one, we’ve used an actor to protect the identity of the original. Hi. I’m Justin. I’m the author of the book Living a Better Life. And I’m here to tell you my top three reasons for going vegan. Animals from factory farming spend their entire lives in miserable conditions until the day they are slaughtered. Most won’t ever feel the warmth of the sun on their backs or breathe fresh air until the day they’re loaded onto trucks, bound for the slaughterhouses. Their suffering is unimaginable. Animals from factory farming are treated cruelly. Now, you might think that eggs are OK to eat because after all, you don’t need to slaughter chickens to eat their eggs. Wrong.

Skip to 2 minutes and 32 seconds Chickens get their beaks cut off with a burning hot blade and with no painkillers. And half of the chickens on farms, the cockerels, are slaughtered. The fact is, eggs come from hens that are treated cruelly– all that so that you can enjoy bacon and eggs. But I only eat fish, some people say. Well, that won’t cut it either. The problem is that commercial fishing is destroying and emptying our oceans. As a result of commercial fishing, 90% of large fish populations have been exterminated in the past 50 years. When we put the argument in standard form, we have to isolate the statements that form the conclusion and premises, and we have to reorder them appropriately.

Skip to 3 minutes and 18 seconds The conclusion here was explicitly stated– you should go vegan. And Justin clearly announced that he had three reasons in support of his conclusion. But he seems to have given us many more than three– or has he? Let’s first try to isolate the three main reasons Justin provided. The first one is about factory farming and the maltreatment of animals. Justin gave some contextual information about factory farming and provided additional reasons to believe that factory farming is cruel to animals. However, the reason which directly supports the conclusion is– Animals from factory farming are treated cruelly. The second reason Justin provided was about eggs, and the fact that they come from hens that are also treated cruelly.

Skip to 4 minutes and 5 seconds Again, he provided additional reasons as to why you should believe this. But the main reason directly used in support of the conclusion is– Eggs come from hens that are treated cruelly. For the third and final reason, we again have the same pattern. Justin talked about the impact of commercial fishing on the oceans and backed up the claim with additional reasons. But the main reason that directly supports the conclusion that you should go vegan is– Commercial fishing is destroying and emptying our oceans. We now have our three reasons and our conclusion. So now we can put the argument in standard form. Premise 1– animals from factory farming are treated cruelly. Premise 2– eggs come from hens that are treated cruelly.

Skip to 4 minutes and 55 seconds Premise 3– commercial fishing is destroying and emptying our oceans. Therefore, conclusion– you should go vegan. Call this the main argument. As we’ve seen, Justin provided reasons to believe each of the premises. Call those sub-arguments. Now that we’ve isolated the main argument, the next step would be to look at each sub-agreement and put them in standard form. We’ll ask you to do this as an exercise. But I’d like to stress that it’s very important for you to be able to identify the main argument when you face arguments in the wild. First, identify the main conclusion and the reasons that are provided to support it. Then work your way down to each sub-argument.

Skip to 5 minutes and 40 seconds When you get to analyse sub-arguments, you will follow the same pattern. More about this later.

# What is the standard form of an argument?

The standard form of an argument is a way of presenting the argument which makes clear which propositions are premises, how many premises there are and which proposition is the conclusion. In standard form, the conclusion of the argument is listed last.

In standard form, an argument is presented like this:

$$\begin{array}{ll} \text{P1} & \text{Premise 1}\\ \text{P2} & \text{Premise 2}\\ \text{P3} & \text{And so on for as many premises as there are in the argument.}\\ &\text{Therefore,}\\ \text{C} & \text{Conclusion} \end{array}$$

Example:

$$\begin{array}{ll} \text{P1} & \text{​I'm on leave this week.}\\ \text{P2} & \text{I never answer work emails when I'm on leave.}\\ &\text{Therefore,}\\ \text{C} & \text{I'm not answering work emails this week.} \end{array}$$

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