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Introducing arguments

Watch Dr. Patrick Girard introduce us to a fundamental notion in critical thinking - arguments.
As we discussed in the first week, when someone is trying to convince you of something you should think, what reasons have I been given for believing what this person wants me to believe? You know what reasons have been given to you when you can express them in what we call an argument. This is the fundamental notion in critical thinking. An argument is simply a way to describe the way in which reasons support beliefs. You shouldn’t confuse it with the more common way of using the word argument, as in having an argument, an angry exchange of diverging views. For us, an argument is a way of expressing and presenting a view.
Briefly, an argument is a collection of statements, one of which, the conclusion, is supported by the other ones, the premises. By the end of week four, you will have all required tools to evaluate whether an argument is good or bad, using this diagram. This week, we will do preparatory work. You learn how to identify arguments in the wild and reconstruct them in what we call a standard form. A standard form is a nice way of showing what an argument looks like and allows you to clearly indicate the main point of the argument, the conclusion, and the reasons, the premises, provided in support of the conclusion.
You’ll sometimes have to do some interpretational work when you put arguments in standard form, because, generally, people do not explicitly state every part of the argument or they use rhetorical moves to express their views. In those cases, you’ll have to reformulate parts of arguments when you put them in standard form. You’ll also need to be able to recognise when views are expressed as arguments. Sometimes people express their views without providing reasons for them. So your first task this week is to understand what arguments are and what they’re made of, statements. I’ll let you first read about statements and arguments. And I’ll come back to tell you how to put them in standard form.

An argument is simply a way to describe the way in which reasons support beliefs. This is the fundamental notion in critical thinking.

This week, we aim to help you to:

  • Distinguish between statements and non-statements.
  • Distinguish between arguments and non-arguments.
  • Identify the premises and conclusion of an argument.
  • Disambiguate sentences.
  • Discover the missing parts of an argument.
  • Reconstruct arguments in standard form.
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Logical and Critical Thinking

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