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Summary of Week 4
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Summary of Week 4

Summary of how to evaluate arguments as good or bad.
14.2
You now have all the tools required to evaluate arguments, which makes you part of the elite of critical thinkers. What you have learned can be inspected by your ability to answer the following questions when you go back to the real world and encounter some passage. What statements does this passage contain? If it’s an argument, what’s the conclusion? And what are the premises? If it’s an argument, does it have any suppressed premises? If so, what are they? How does the argument look like in standard form with all its premises made explicit? Is the argument deductive or non-deductive? If it’s deductive, is it valid? If it’s non-deductive, how strong is it? Are the premises true?
71.4
So is it a good or a bad argument? If you wanted to study argument evaluation further, you could do one of two things. You could study deductive logic. Deductive logic is a mathematical field of studies that goes into the gritty details of arguments and focuses on their form. Logicians– that is, people specialised in logic– are professionals in evaluating the validity of arguments. You’ve seen, in this course, how to show that arguments are invalid. You provide a counter example. But how do you show that arguments are valid? How can you make sure that there are no counter examples? Well, that’s the kind of questions logicians try to answer. You could also study non-deductive logic.
122.7
Here, it is statisticians and experts in probabilities that lead the field. Non-deductive arguments are only intended to give probable support for their conclusion and probabilities is the kind of mathematics you need to get at the heart of it, but you don’t need to become an expert in either of those fields to apply the skills you’ve learned. You will have plenty of chances to apply your new skills when you encounter arguments in the wild. Tim will show you how this applies to various arguments as they show up in science, law, and morality.

So what have we done so far?

You now have all the tools required to evaluate arguments, which makes you part of the elite of critical thinkers. What you have learned can be inspected by your ability to answer the following questions, when you go back to the real world and encounter some passage.

  1. What, if any, statements does this passage contain?
  2. If it’s an argument, what’s the conclusion? And what premises are supplied?
  3. If it’s an argument, does it have any suppressed premises? If so, what are they?
  4. How does the whole argument look in standard form with all premises made explicit?
  5. Is the argument deductive or non-deductive?
  6. If it’s deductive, is it valid? If it’s non-deductive, how strong is it? Can you think of a (plausible) counter-example?
  7. Are the premises true?
  8. So, is it a good or a bad argument?

In the rest of the course, we will show you how you can do so by looking at various arguments as they show up in science, law, and morality.

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Logical and Critical Thinking

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