Education.com
Try
Brainzy
Try
Plus

Recognizing A Good Argument Help (page 2)

By
Updated on Sep 28, 2011

Recognizing Weak Premises

Credible and Reasonable Premises

As discussed in the previous lesson, the two criteria for good evidence are credibility and reasonableness. Evidence is credible when it is free of bias and when the sources have a respectable level of expertise. Evidence is reasonable when it is logical, drawn from evidence or common sense.

Sufficient and Substantive Premises

You ask a coworker about the restaurant that recently opened down the street. He tells you, "The Hot Tamale Café? Don't eat there. The service is lousy."

Has he given you a good argument? Well, the conclusion, "Don't eat there," is clear and complete. The premise that supports the conclusion, "The service is lousy," is also clear and complete. The premise and conclusion are free from subtle persuasion. The premise is reasonable, and we don't have any reason to doubt credibility—he's given good recommendations about places to eat before. But is this a good argument? Not really.

Though all of the other criteria check out, this argument has a very important weakness: It simply doesn't offer enough evidence. Not enough reasons are given to accept the conclusion. So, the service is lousy. But maybe the food, the ambiance, and the prices are excellent. When there are so many other reasons for going to a restaurant, just one premise to support that conclusion is not enough.

The following is a much better argument. What makes it better is the number of premises offered to support the conclusion. Some premises are separate support, and some are offered to support other premises (chains of support).

Don't eat at that restaurant. The service is lousy. We had to wait 15 minutes to be seated even though there were empty tables and they messed up our orders. The food is overpriced, too. A plain hamburger is $12.50! The place is dirty—we had to wipe our table down twice with napkins, and I saw a dead cockroach in the corner. And there is no décor to speak of—just bright blue walls and a poster of Hawaii in the corner, even though it's a Mexican restaurant.

Now this restaurant sounds like a place to avoid, doesn't it? What's good about this argument is not only that it offers several distinct premises that separately support the conclusion (major premises), but it also offers support (minor premises) for each of those premises. Each major premise is followed by a specific detail that supports that premise. Here's how this argument maps out:

Conclusion: Don't eat at that restaurant.
Major premise: The service is lousy.
Minor premise: They messed up our orders.
Minor premise: We had to wait 15 minutes to be seated even though there were empty tables.
Major premise: The food is overpriced.
Minor premise: A plain hamburger is $12.50!
Major premise: The place is dirty.
Minor premise: We had to wipe our table down twice with napkins.
Minor premise: I saw a dead cockroach in the corner.
Major premise: There is no décor.
Minor premise: Just bright blue walls and a poster of Hawaii in the corner, even though it's a Mexican restaurant.
View Full Article
Add your own comment