Standard Form Arguments
The central tool of logic is the argument. Accordingly, constructing good arguments is the central element of this course. Each writing assignment in this course will give you an opportunity to construct and improve upon an argument that you will develop as the course progresses. This discussion post allows you to begin the process of developing your argument by presenting good reasoning on both sides of an issue.
The requirement for this discussion is a minimum of four posts on four separate days, including at least two substantive responses to peers. The total combined word count for all of your posts for this discussion, counted together, should be at least 400 words. Answer all the questions in the prompt, and read any resources that are required to complete the discussion properly. In order to satisfy the posting requirements for the week, complete your initial post by Day 3 (Thursday) and your other posts by Day 7 (Monday). We recommend that you get into the discussion early and spread out your posts over the course of the week. Reply to your classmates and instructor. Attempt to take the conversation further by responding substantively to the replies that others make to you as well. Keep the discussion on target, and analyze things in as much detail as you can.
Prepare: To prepare for this discussion, make sure to read the assigned chapters of the primary text and to review the required resources, including the videos about arguments (in the “Lectures” link on the left). Before responding to the prompt, make sure as well to participate in the interactive scenario at the top of this page titled The Raise to gain more appreciation of the importance of constructing good arguments in life.
Reflect: Choose a topic from the PHI103 Final Paper Options list. It should be a topic that you find interesting, but also for which you will be able defend a position with careful logical reasoning. Construct the strongest argument that you can on each side of the issue. Strengthen your arguments by contemplating possible objections to each argument, and revise your arguments in light of the objections. Continue this process until you feel that your arguments for each side are as convincing as you can possibly make them.
Write: Present your two arguments (one on each side of the issue) in standard form (with each premise and conclusion on a separate line) on the topic you selected from the PHI103 Final Paper Options list. The two arguments should defend different positions on the topic. For example, if your topic was the existence of Santa Claus, then you would present one argument for the claim that Santa Claus does exist and another argument that Santa Claus does not exist. The premises of each argument will present reasons for thinking that the conclusion is true.
Here is an example of what an argument in standard form looks like:
Premise 1: If Santa Claus exists, then he lives at the North Pole.
Premise 2: No one can live at the North Pole.
Conclusion: Santa Claus does not exist.
For each argument, provide a brief explanation of the strengths and weaknesses of the argument. You might explain whether the argument is inductive or deductive, or you might provide a diagram of the argument. Think about how the two arguments compare to each other. Is one better than the other? If so, what makes that one better? Is each a fair presentation of what someone taking that position would say? Are the premises reasonable? How might each argument be made better?
Guided Response: Read the arguments presented by your classmates, and analyze the reasoning that they have presented. Whether you agree with their position or not, see if you can help them to improve their arguments. In particular, point out any respect in which a reasonable person might disagree with the truth of their premises or with the strength of their reasoning. Consider addressing the following questions: Did your classmate present a convincing argument? Why, or why not? Which part of the argument might someone dispute (e.g., premise, conclusion, structure, etc.)? How might the argument be strengthened? Make sure that your posts for the week include at least two substantive responses to classmates.