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HowToDiagramArguments.pdf

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Department
Social Sciences and Humanities
Course
SSH 105
Professor
Andrew Hunter
Semester
Fall

Description
HOW TO CONSTRUCT A DIAGRAM FOR AN ARGUMENT When you are diagramming arguments, it’s a good idea to follow the same series of steps. I recommend the following 8-Step approach. Try to follow each of these steps when constructing your argument diagrams. Step 1: Mark all the Indicator Words Step 2: Number all the assertions in the argument Step 3: Identify the main conclusion of the argument Step 4: Identify the Premises that Directly Support the Conclusion Step 5: Decide whether these are Dependent or Independent Premises Step 6: Draw a diagram for these premises and the main conclusion Step 7: Determine whether there are any sub-arguments Step 8: Complete the diagram for the argument [A] Use the 8-step method to construct a diagram for the following argument: Mike studied hard for the exam and has had a solid understanding of the material all year, so he will pass the exam. Step 1: Mark all the Indicator Words Mike studied hard for the exam and has had a solid understanding of the material all year, so he will pass the exam. Step 2: List All of the Assertions in the Argument When you do this, take your time. Pay particular attention to the following guidelines: (i) Separate the conjuncts of a conjunction. A conjunction is a sentence of the form “P and Q”. A conjunction always asserts each of its parts. (ii) When you see a sentence that contains an indicator word, you should break that sentence up into separate assertions. (iii) When you write down the distinct assertions in the argument, number them in the order in which they occur in the argument. 1 If you apply these strategies to our argument, you should end up with the following list of assertions: (1)Mike studied hard for the exam. (2)Mike has had a solid understanding of the material all year. (3)Mike will pass the exam. Step 3: Identify the Main Conclusion of the Argument What is the argument trying to prove? Clearly, the point here is to convince us that Mike will pass the exam. In this case, there is an indicator word – so – that should alert you to the fact that this is a conclusion. Step 4: Identify the Premises that Directly Support the Conclusion The premises are (1)Mike studied hard for the exam. (2)Mike has had a solid understanding of the material all year. Step 5: Decide whether these are Dependent or Independent Premises Since each of these by itself provides good reason for accepting the conclusion, you should recognize that they are independent premises. Step 6: Draw a diagram for these premises and the main conclusion Since (1) and (2) independent premises, you should draw a separate arrow under each to the conclusion, (3). (1) (2) (3) 2 Step 7: Determine whether there are any sub-arguments There are no sub-arguments. (1) supports (3) and (2) also supports (3). No evidence is offered for either (1) or (2), so there are no sub-arguments. Step 8: Draw a Diagram for the argument (1) (2) (3) Let’s look at another example: [B] Use the 8-step method to construct a diagram for the following argument: Either Bob or Carol or Ted robbed the convenience store last night. Bob couldn’t have done it because he was caring for his sick cat at the time. Carol couldn’t have done it since she was out of town at the time. So the robber must have been Ted. Step 1: Mark all the Indicator Words Either Bob or Carol or Ted robbed the convenience store last night. Bob couldn’t have done it because he was caring for his sick cat at the time. Carol couldn’t have done it since she was out of town at the time. So the robber must have been Ted. 3 Step 2: List All of the Assertions in the Argument When you do this, take your time. Pay particular attention to the following guidelines: (i) Separate the conjuncts of a conjunction. (ii) When you see a sentence that contains an indicator word, you should break that sentence up into separate assertions. For example, the sentence “Bob couldn’t have done it because he was caring for his sick cat” contains the indicator word because. As you know, this means that a reason or premise is being introduced. So you should treat this sentence as containing two separate assertions, i.e. “Bob couldn’t have done it” and “He was caring for his sick cat” (iii) When you write down the distinct assertions in the argument, number them in the order in which they occur in the argument. If you apply these strategies to our argument, you should end up with the following list of assertions: (1) Either Bob or Carol or Ted robbed the convenience store last night. (2) Bob couldn’t have done it. (3) Bob was caring for his sick cat at the time. (4) Carol couldn’t have done it. (5) Carol was out of town at the time. (6) The robber must have been Ted. Step 3: Identify the Main Conclusion of the Argument What is the argument trying to prove? Clearly, the point here is to convince us that the robber must have been Ted. In this case, there is an indicator word – so – that should alert you to the fact that this is the conclusion. Step 4: Identify the Premises that Directly Support the Conclusion This step is sometimes a little tricky. You should look for the assertions that seem most directly relevant to the truth of the conclusion. In this argument, all the remaining assertions are relevant, but the most relevant seem to be (1) Either Bob or Carol or Ted robbed the convenience store last night. (2) Bob couldn’t have done it. (4) Carol couldn’t have done it. If these were true, then it would be reasonable to think the conclusion is also true. 4 Step 5: Decide whether these are Dependent or Independent Premises Since none of these by itself provides good reason for accepting the conclusion, you should recognize that they are dependent premises. Step 6: Draw a diagram for these premises and the main conclusion Since (1), (2), and (4) are dependent premises, you should separate them by “+” and then draw a vertical arrow down to the main conclusion (6). Your diagram should look like this: (1) + (2) + (4) ____________________________________________ (6) 5 Step 7: Determine whether there are any sub-arguments There are sub-arguments. Statements (3) and (5) haven’t been accounted for yet. Notice that each of these comes after a Premise Indicator word. This tells you that they should be treated as premises. Since they don’t seem to be premises that directly support the main conclusion, you should assume that they are premises in sub-arguments. Statement (3) (“Bob was caring for his sick cat at the time”) is offered as a premise supporting statement (2) (“Bob couldn’t have done it”). Statement (5) is offered as a premise supporting statement (4) (“Carol couldn’t have done it”). So you know that there are two sub-arguments Step 8: Draw a Diagram for the argument (3) (5) (1)
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