Critical Thinking & Reasoning
Modesto Junior College
TABLE OF CONTENTS – CRITICAL REASONING
I. Introduction to Critical reasoning ................................................................................................ 6
II. Claims: The Basic Stuff Of Arguments ...................................................................................... 8
A. What are claims made of? ........................................................................................................... 9
1. Natural Signs versus Word-Symbols ........................................................................................9
B. Where do claims come from? - Grounds ................................................................................... 11
C. The content of claims: what kinds of ideas do claims communicate?....................................... 13
1. Objective & Factual claims ....................................................................................................13
2. Subjective claims ....................................................................................................................13
3. Value claims – claims that tell us the value of something......................................................14
a. Moral claims................................................................................................................................. 14
b. Prudential claims .......................................................................................................................... 14
c. Legal claims ................................................................................................................................. 14
d. Aesthetic claims ........................................................................................................................... 15
D. Definitions ................................................................................................................................. 17
a. Stipulative definitions: to tell us how you will use a word .......................................................... 17
b. Explanatory Definitions (Explanations) ...................................................................................... 17
c. Essential Definitions: ................................................................................................................... 18
E. Danger: Vagueness and Ambiguity ........................................................................................... 20
1. Vagueness ...............................................................................................................................20
2. Ambiguous terms ....................................................................................................................21
F. Recap: Concepts you need to know ........................................................................................... 24
III. Arguments & Explanations – an overview ............................................................................. 25
A. Issues: What Arguments Attempt To Resolve ............................................................................ 25
B. Arguments: premise-claim(s) + conclusion claim(s) ................................................................ 25
C. Inferences and Implications ...................................................................................................... 26
D. Argument Types: Deductive, Inductive, Good, Bad .................................................................. 28
1. Deductive arguments ..............................................................................................................28
2. Inductive arguments ...............................................................................................................28
3. Good, Bad, Valid, & Sound Arguments .................................................................................29
E. Argument and Explanation tests................................................................................................ 31
1. Premise Test ...........................................................................................................................31
2. Causal Explanation Test .........................................................................................................32
3. Implication Test ......................................................................................................................33
F. Recap – concepts you need to know from chapter three ........................................................... 33
IV. Danger: Rhetoric & Ghost Arguments (Fallacies – part 1) ................................................... 34
A. Rhetoric ..................................................................................................................................... 34
1. Slanters ...................................................................................................................................34
a. Proof Surrogates ........................................................................................................................... 34
b. Innuendo and Downplayers ......................................................................................................... 35
c. Hyperbole ..................................................................................................................................... 35
d. Slanter Examples ......................................................................................................................... 36
2. Euphemisms and Dysphemisms .............................................................................................37
3. Persuasive Definitions: ...........................................................................................................38
B. Argument Ghost Fallacies - “Now you see them, but you really don’t.” ................................ 39
1. Red Herring ............................................................................................................................39
2. Non-Sequitur ..........................................................................................................................39
3. Question Begging ...................................................................................................................39
4. Straw Man (Person.) ...............................................................................................................40
5. Ad Hominem ..........................................................................................................................41
+6. Genetic Fallacy .....................................................................................................................43
7. Demagoguery & Argument from Outrage Fallacy .................................................................43
8. Scare tactics/Argument by force .............................................................................................44
9. Reports are not Arguments .....................................................................................................44
C. Recap: Concepts you need to know from chapter four ............................................................. 45
V. Deductive Arguments (1) – Sentential Logic ............................................................................ 46
A. Sentential Logic: Translation of Ordinary Language Sentences into Symbols (Standard form)46
1. Definition of deductive symbols.............................................................................................47
2. Rules for Symbolizing Sentence-claims .................................................................................48
B. Valid Argument Forms .............................................................................................................. 49
1. Modus Ponens (MP) ...............................................................................................................50
2. Modus Tollens (MT) ..............................................................................................................51
3. Hypothetical Syllogism (HS)..................................................................................................51
4. Disjunctive Syllogism (DS) ....................................................................................................51
5. Constructive Dilemma (CD) ...................................................................................................52
C. Equivalent Forms ...................................................................................................................... 52
D. Stylistic Variants and Contradictories of Conditionals & Disjunctions ................................... 53
1. Stylistic Variants of Conditionals ...........................................................................................53
2. Contradictories of Conditionals ..............................................................................................54
3. Contradictories of Disjunctions ..............................................................................................54
E. Danger: Invalid deductive forms ............................................................................................... 55
1. Affirming the Consequent fallacy ..........................................................................................55
2. Denying the Antecedent fallacy .............................................................................................55
3. Either/Or (Also Called "Disjunctive Syllogism" Fallacy) ......................................................55
F. Recap: Concepts you need to know from chapter five .............................................................. 56
VI. Deductive Arguments (2) - Venn Diagrams and Categorical Reasoning ............................. 57
A. Four Standard-form Categorical Claims – A, E, I, O ............................................................... 57
B. Venn Diagrams .......................................................................................................................... 58
C. Stylistic variants and Contradictories of categorical claims .................................................... 65
1. Stylistic variants of A and I categorical claims ......................................................................65
2. Contradictories of A, E, I, O Categorical claims ....................................................................66
D. Recap: Concepts you need to know from chapter VI ............................................................... 66
VII. MC-P Diagramming and Argument Analysis ....................................................................... 67
A. Overview – MC, P/SC, & P symbols ......................................................................................... 67
B. Indicators and Discounts........................................................................................................... 68
1. Premise Indicators ..................................................................................................................68
2. Equal premise indicators ........................................................................................................68
3. Conclusion Indicators .............................................................................................................69
4. Discounts ................................................................................................................................70
C. The MC-P Method – What to Include ....................................................................................... 70
1. MC-Ps .....................................................................................................................................70
3. Preponderance of Evidence ....................................................................................................72
4. Order of Premises ...................................................................................................................73
5. When to insert unstated, implied claims .................................................................................73
D. The MC-P Method - What To Omit........................................................................................... 74
1. Stylistic Variants.....................................................................................................................74
2. Omit Stage Setting Claims: ....................................................................................................74
3. Omit Unnecessary Words .......................................................................................................75
a. Omit references to authorship ...................................................................................................... 75
b. Omit slanter words ....................................................................................................................... 75
c. Omit unassertions ......................................................................................................................... 75
d. Omit hedge words ........................................................................................................................ 76
e. Omit indicator words.................................................................................................................... 76
f. Omit background beliefs .............................................................................................................. 76
E. The MC-P Method – What needs to be paraphrased? .............................................................. 76
F. MC-P Method - Examples ......................................................................................................... 77
G. Recap: Concepts you need to know from chapter seven ........................................................... 80
VIII. Inductive Arguments.............................................................................................................. 81
A. Analogical and Generalization Reasoning................................................................................ 81
B. Danger: Analogy Fallacies (3).................................................................................................. 82
1. False Analogy (Also Called Questionable Analogy)..............................................................82
2. Two Wrongs ...........................................................................................................................83
3. Fallacy of Composition ..........................................................................................................84
4. Fallacy of Division .................................................................................................................84
C. Danger: Fallacies of Generalization (4)................................................................................... 84
1. Hasty Generalization (Small Sample) ....................................................................................84
2. Biased Sample ........................................................................................................................85
3. Stereotype ...............................................................................................................................86
D. Concepts you need to know from chapter eight ........................................................................ 87
IX. Causal Reasoning....................................................................................................................... 88
A. Relevant-Difference Reasoning ................................................................................................ 88
1. Controlled Cause to Effect Experiments ................................................................................88
2. Non-Experimental Cause-to-Effect Experiments ...................................................................91
B. Common-thread reasoning ........................................................................................................ 91
1. Non-Experimental Effect to Cause Experiments ....................................................................92
C. Scientific Method ....................................................................................................................... 92
D. Danger - Causal Fallacies (5) .................................................................................................. 93
1. Anecdotal Evidence Fallacy (a type of post hoc fallacy) .......................................................93
2. False or Questionable Cause...................................................................................................93
2. Slippery Slope (Causal Version) ............................................................................................94
3. Nontestability - falsifiability ...................................................................................................94
E. Concepts you need to know from chapter nine.......................................................................... 95
X. Internal vs. External Argument Evaluation ............................................................................. 96
A. Critical reasoning Attitudes: ..................................................................................................... 96
1. Principle of Fidelity ................................................................................................................96
2. Principle of Charity ................................................................................................................96
3. Nitpicking and Quibbling: Getting in Touch with your Inner Gray Area ..............................96
B. Internal Evaluation of an Argument .......................................................................................... 96
C. External - Dialectical Evaluation of an Argument ................................................................... 96
1. Counter-Example Argument Test ...........................................................................................97
D. Recap: Concepts you need to know from chapter ten ............................................................... 98
XI. Evaluating Premises .................................................................................................................. 99
A. Objective vs. Subjective Claims................................................................................................. 99
1. To say how things are in the world: Objective claims ...........................................................99
2. To say how things are with myself: Subjective claims ..........................................................99
3. Why it’s important to distinguish between objective and subjective claims ........................100
B. True or Justified Premises ....................................................................................................... 101
1. Common Sense .....................................................................................................................101
2. Scientific Fact-Claims ..........................................................................................................101
3. Subjective claims ....................................................................................................................... 101
4. Credible Authority: Experts, personal observation, and justified truths ..............................101
C. Questionable Premises ............................................................................................................ 103
D. False Premises ........................................................................................................................ 103
1. Premises that Contradict Established Facts, Expert Authorities, or Personal Observation ..103
2. Falsifiable Claims .................................................................................................................103
3. False Conditional Premises ..................................................................................................104
E. Danger – Fallacies of Relevance & False Premises ............................................................... 105
1. Relativism/Subjectivism with respect to factual claims. ......................................................105
2. Wishful Thinking ..................................................................................................................105
3. Appeal To Authority .............................................................................................................105
4. Appeal to Popularity (Majority View or Jumping on the Bandwagon) ...............................106
5. Appeal to Ignorance..............................................................................................................107
F. Recap: Concepts you need to know from chapter eleven ........................................................ 107
VII. Exercises.................................................................................................................................. 108
A. Imply Vs. Infer ......................................................................................................................... 108
B. Exercises: Premise vs. Explanations ....................................................................................... 110
D. Short Argument Exercises ....................................................................................................... 112
X. Critical Thinkers & the United States..................................................................................... 119
A. The Media ................................................................................................................................ 119
1. Democracy and the Media by Ben H. Bagdikian .................................................................119
B. Environment/ Apocalypse ........................................................................................................ 126
1. Welcome to Doomsday by Bill Moyers ...............................................................................126
I. INTRODUCTION TO CRITICAL REASONING
t first glance critical reasoning appears to be a certain kind of reasoning that is judgmental and
fault-finding. And certainly the word critical more often than not means just this. But in
philosophy, critical, from the ancient Greek term kritikos or krinein – to separate or distinguish
ideas - means ―able to make judgments.‖
Reasoning, on the other hand, is a mental activity that we are all (hopefully)
familiar with that usually is conscious, voluntary, goal-oriented, and focused.
Reasoning is a sort of mind activity that is usually aimed at solving a problem of
some kind through the medium of language or word-symbols. We ―think‖ when
faced with choices of some sort – everything from what to wear in the morning to
which classes to take, to how to respond to unforeseen events at work or home.
Habitual patterned activity may or may not involve reasoning. Dreaming,
watching TV, passively listening to music usually does not involve thinking. Do you agree? What do you
think? You’ll be happy to know that there exist rules for good judgment-thinking or distinction-making
thinking. Rules that can be learned, and that once learned, will improve your everyday thinking. Indeed,
that critical reasoning is a course requirement for you implies that the State of California agrees that we
can improve our critical reasoning skills. Do you agree? Do you agree that this is implied and if so that
your thinking could be improved? Finally if you agree that your thinking could be improved, is this alone
a good reason to believe that you should improve your thinking? As is evident from the above questions,
critical reasoning is a peculiar sort of human experience or ability that can be applied to everything that
can be imagined or conceived including the idea of whether or not thinking critically is of value.
This course will introduce you to a traditional western approach to critical reasoning that has arisen out of
the practice of philosophy during the past 2,600 years. This course will primarily cover what is called
informal logic although we will spend some time on deductive logic. Certainly other conceptions of
critical reasoning exist both within and outside the western tradition. If time permits we will discuss these
alternate views of critical reasoning such as the way in which political and historical realities create our
lived context, which in turn limits the ways in which we argue and what we argue about.
Please be aware how the definition of In this class you will learn how to identify, build, and
argument in critical reasoning as evaluate thinking-chains made up of claims which we call
stated above differs from the common arguments. By distinguishing between good and bad
view of argument as a dispute or fight arguments, between true and false premises, we will be
between two or more people. While employing critical reasoning in a careful, discriminating
this notion of argument may include manner.
the definition of argument used in
critical reasoning, this is not what we The art of critical reasoning requires that one is committed to
mean by an argument in philosophy. In certain values or attitudes: careful listening to others’
critical reasoning and the sciences, an arguments, careful examination of one’s own arguments, a
argument is at least two claims one of willingness to change or suspend one’s own opinions when
which we call a conclusion that is such opinions are unsubstantiated, an acceptance that critical
supported by other claims that we call reasoning is an ongoing, unfinished project, and finally a
premises or reasons. developed sense of when to employ your critical reasoning
skills with others. While we quite literally live within a sea
of arguments – put forth by the media, our families, friends, advertising, politicians, teachers, employers,
and co-workers – it is not always appropriate or beneficial to directly challenge others’ beliefs or
arguments. Evaluating others’ claims does not mean that we attack other people or put them down. Yes, a
critical thinker does evaluate and point out the deficiencies in arguments but this must always be done in a
spirit of helping to improve others’ and our thinking and to increase our knowledge of the world.
So critical reasoning, in essence, is an ongoing process of careful communication about things that are
either true or false by human beings who, despite deficiencies and flaws, seek to help each other to form
more justified and clearer beliefs. Given the complexities of our modern world, it is of course not always
possible to evaluate a given argument. However critical reasoning can still be of use in such situations.
Critical reasoning can help us distinguish between arguments that we can potentially evaluate from those
that are beyond our understanding thus saving ourselves from needless, irresolvable debates. In addition,
by trying on these critical reasoning attitudes you will more easily be able to determine whether others
around you embody the same attitudes. If they don’t, you will want to take that into account when
debating or engaging them. Do you agree? Is my argument a good one?
Finally, an obvious question that you might be asking is, ―if critical reasoning is so important why are so
many people – including many highly educated and intelligent people – poor critical thinkers?‖ What sort
of causal explanation accounts for this absence of critical reasoning?
Here are a few possible causes:
Little free-time or energy available to pursue an education or to read more widely
A culture that does not value critical reasoning or intellectual pursuits.
Lack of relevant background information
Poor reading skills
Egocentrism (self-centered thinking)
Distrust of reason and logic
Habits of stereotyping
Scapegoating to alleviate one’s own sense of insecurity
Rationalization to avoid looking at painful realities
Wishful thinking to avoid looking at painful realities
Fear of change
Habits of accepting things for no reason
Obviously it’s not easy to be a good critical thinker. Not only must we be careful and thorough in how we
talk and listen, but we must be willing to confront emotional resistances within ourselves – whether this
be the painful process of changing habitual ways of thinking or acknowledging the often painful realities
that critical reasoning may reveal. My view is that, despite the discomfort that critical reasoning may
involve, critical reasoning is beneficial, if not essential toward developing into full human beings. Do you
II. CLAIMS: THE BASIC STUFF OF ARGUMENTS
Claims: 1) are statements or sentences that are true or false or 2) statements for which it makes
sense to ask, ―Is it true?‖
Arguments: a group of at least two claims where one claim, called a conclusion, is supported by
other claim(s), called a premise.
Beliefs, Opinions, Views, Convictions, Prejudices, Statements, Propositions, and Assertions
– for our purposes are stylistic variants of claims. That is, these are just other ways of saying
N ow, just as we require space, time, and three dimensions in order to exist, arguments require
language in order to exist. So perhaps a good place to begin with understanding critical
reasoning and arguments is with the different ways that we use language:
The masses definitely are
I promise never to not smart enough to handle
smile. Hey, what’s
for lunch? democracy on their own.
The masses might be
smart enough to handle
democracy on their own.
Did you know that
I am beautiful in
Jeans are more
comfortable and That mosquito…if I just
stylish than my stand quietly I’ll be able
Puritan wardrobe. to squish it bloody dead
when it flies near my
Martha, what’s face again…
Modesto is a the latest
great city. gossip?
Can all these examples of language be used in arguments? Which of the above utterances do you think
can be used in arguments? Which cannot? Hopefully after you are finished with this chapter on claims,
you will be able to quickly identify which of George’s statements could serve as parts of arguments.
You might have intuitively figured out that the only statements by President Washington above that can
be used in arguments are those statements or sentences that say how things are or should be. This is
correct and we call such sentences claims. Claims are sentences that are either true or false.
For example, if I say, ―There is a book on the table over there,‖ I have just made a claim as it passes the
claims-test when I ask, ―Does it make sense to ask if it is true that there is a book on the table over there?‖
Yes, it definitely makes sense to ask this and we can easily see if it is true or not. If I say, ―Tom has
wings and flies above Founder’s Hall,‖ this is also a claim as it passes the claims-test, ―Does it make
sense to ask if it is true that Tom has wings and flies above the Founder’s Hall?‖ Yes, it certainly makes
sense to ask if this statement is true even though the statement is obviously false so it is a claim -- or
really two claims – can you see why there are two claims in this sentence? There is also an indicator
world that tells you there are two claims. Can you identify the indicator word?1 Finally, how about the
sentence, ―A race of aliens with superior technology to that of humans exists on some planet in the
universe.‖ This is also a claim as it makes sense to ask if it’s true or false. Although this claim is true or
false, we may never know whether it’s true or false.
So if a claim is a sentence for which it makes sense to ask ―is it true or false?,‖ what sort of sentences
would not count as claims? If what makes a sentence ―true‖ is simply uttering the sentence and nothing
else, then for our purposes we will not consider this a claim. Thus, if I say, ―I promise to give you an A if
you wash and vacuum my car,‖ it really doesn’t make sense to ask if this promise is true or false since it is
already true by the very fact that I just stated it. So promises are sentences that are not claims. Can you
think of other sentence types that are not claims?2
Above we have discussed the definition of claims. Now we are going to examine in greater detail the
nature of claims including what claims are made of, where claims come from, and some of the different
types of claims.
A. What are claims made of?
Claims are made of written or verbal words which are then organized according to grammatical rules to
form sentences. Words are abstract symbols that, magically, can represent something else. Literally,
words can re-present or ―make present again‖ that to which they refer. Thus words are able to stand for
something beyond the word-symbols. One way to appreciate language’s ability to re-present reality is to
examine the difference between natural signs and human-made symbols.
1. Natural Signs versus Word-Symbols
According to S. Morris Engel, a natural sign is an event or ground in nature that is said to be caused by,
or is a cause of, another natural event.3 Natural events become natural signs when we humans come along
The indicator word is the word ―and‖. The word ―and‖ indicates or points to the existence of two claims: Tom has wings
and… Tom flies above Founder’s Hall.
Promises, invitations, exclamations, deal-making sentences, commands, non-rhetorical questions are not claims because it
doesn’t make sense to ask ―is it true or false?‖
Engel, S. Morris, With Good Reason: An Introduction to Fallacies, 6th Ed., St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2000, p. 63.
and pick one event and call it a sign for the other event(s). Thus smoke is a sign of fire or ―shaking
ground‖ is a sign of earthquake. Thus when we ―see‖ smoke, we know there is fire because smoke and
fire are causally linked and through experience we know that smoke means fire. We ―see‖ causally
connected or temporally correlated events4 and then identify the event counts as the sign and see it as the
―effect‖ of another event which we see as its ―cause.‖ Thus when smoke and fire occur together in time
we tend to say that, ―smoke is a sign of fire,‖ not, ―fire is a sign of smoke.‖ In our experience fire is the
cause of smoke not the other way around. So smoke is a sign of fire. By the way, we don’t call natural
signs symbols because we humans don’t actually create the natural sign-events themselves (i.e. – we don’t
create ―smoke‖) whereas we humans do create sound and visual symbols for example (ie – words).
A symbol then, is a human-made sign in the form of words, sounds, or pictures, invented by us to stand
for something else. Symbols do not have any natural connection with what they represent in that natural
events do not cause symbols. Take the example of the word ―tree‖ which stands for those big living
wooden things outside with soft green stuff on top. Now, look at the letters of ―tree‖ – T-R-E-E … do
these letters resemble a tree in any way? No. Are these letters caused by trees? Do they appear on each
tree trunk as the tree grows? Not at all and thus T-R-E-E is not a natural sign but a symbol entirely created
by we humans. Notice as well that if I want to tell you what the symbol tree means, I must use other
symbols. In fact it’s impossible not to use other symbols to tell you what tree means. The best that I can
do if I wish to explain tree to you without using words is to simply go outside with you and point at a
bunch of what we call trees. This by the way would be an ostensive definition. The philosopher Ludwig
Wittgenstein asks whether this is all that we can do if we truly wish to communicate.
Can you think of any word-symbols that are in fact caused by natural events and thus are also
natural signs? I will award you some extra credit if you can do this.5
Without a system of symbols our ability to communicate would be greatly limited. For
example, if we only used pictures of natural signs instead of symbols, our ―language‖ might look like
And what a drag that would be. Right? A life that moves from one natural sign or event to another, from
smell to sight to sound to pleasure to pain. Just a progression of sense experiences absent any ―naming‖ or
abstract symbols that re-present the parts of our existence. Thank goodness we humans are not animals.6
Temporally correlated events are events that occur in the same time period. Often humans make the mistake of thinking that if
event A occurs shortly after event B then event B must have caused event A.
―Treasure chest‖ extra credit offers in this text expire two weeks from the date that the given page is assigned as reading. All
extra credit submissions must be your own work. Extra credit points will vary at the discretion of Mr. Anelli although each
student will be evaluated fairly and as objectively as humanly possible. Instructor is not responsible for late, lost, or
misdirected submissions of extra credit. Emailed extra credits will not be accepted.
OK, yes, some animals appear to have limited symbol capacity: apes, chimpanzees, monkeys, parrots, dolphins to name a
few, but you get my drift.
While animals can intuitively understand natural signs (in the sense that they react to the cause and effect
relation between natural events), are they able to understand symbols as abstract and precise as:
―bahay‖ or or ―nha‖ or ―house‖ or ―casa‖
If animals cannot understand symbols what does that mean? Are we then superior to animals? Does this
give us the right to slit their throats, skin their hides, and eat them for dinner? Just because they cannot
create symbols? What do you think? Of course perhaps our use of symbols is what makes possible our
potential for cruelty, unique in the animal kingdom.7
Perhaps you find this interesting but what has this to do with critical reasoning? What’s the payoff in
understanding the distinction between natural signs and human symbols? Above we stated that the claims
are sentences or statements that are true or false. Given the discussion of symbols above, we may now
restate our definition of claims as ―sentences made of word-symbols that either fit with or do not fit with
how things are.‖ But, unlike signs, symbols are not endless repeating events but instead are constructed –
and changeable – by us humans. Our ever-changing language, our ―riffing‖ on language greatly
complicates our goal of understanding how things are. If we are mindful of language’s contingent
possibilities then we can improve our chances of being precise, clear, reasoners. If however, we make the
mistake of thinking that language symbols are like natural signs, permanently tied to events of some kind,
then we are at greater risk of being fooled by intentional or lazy misuses of language symbols. We fall
into this error by the way because, when some words (names) are associated with the same objects over a
relatively long period of time, we tend to forget that the words are not natural entities but invented by us.
In the next section below we will discuss some common dangers that befall us when using language or
word-symbols in our everyday lives.
B. Where do claims come from? - Grounds
So, where do claims with their word-symbols come from? Not surprisingly, claims originate in society as
well as by you and I. For example we receive claims from people we speak with, from material that we
read, or from TV, radio, or other media that we listen to or watch. We also create our own claims using
the particular language given to us by history and create claims in order to put forth our own opinions on
Or, we create our own claims in order to communicate an experience of a ground. A ground is any event
or phenomena which, when observed by humans, is used as the basis for an implied or suggested claim.
An example of creating claims from grounds is when we translate natural signs (for example, smoke from
a burning house) into claims: ―The house is burning because I see smoke coming out the window.‖
So for example if you initially went to the bookstore to purchase the book for this class you experienced a
ground: there are no critical reasoning textbooks available on the shelves for this class. Perhaps you then
represented this event as a claim when you said to yourself, ―Hmmm, there are no critical reasoning
Interestingly, some religious traditions try to create conditions in which we experience reality outside of symbols which these
traditions see as preventing us from a direct or immanent union with the divine. Examples are zazen meditation in Zen
Buddhism, Ashtanga Yoga, Christian mysticism, Islamic Sufism, or Shamanism. Some even argue that critical reasoning might
best be accomplished by understanding the world from this symbol-less state. Sort of thinking beyond thinking. But we are not
going to pursue that approach here since that might put me out of a job.
textbooks available for me right now for Mr. Anelli’s class.” Next this claim may have implied another
claim for you; This class will be super easy!
Descriptive Claim More Implied Claims
Ground (an event that is implied by, suggested by
that occurs) and describes, the descriptive-claims
Examine the grounds below in the picture. What descriptive claims directly express the grounds in this
picture? What further claims are suggested or implied by the descriptive claims? Compare your answers
to mine below.8
Knowing the difference between grounds and claims implied by grounds helps us to be precise and to
resist jumping too quickly to unwarranted assumptions regarding our experience. It helps us as well to
know what is required in order to make true claims. When you see or hear a ground, it’s likely that some
of the descriptive claims implied by the ground will be true. Implied claims based on those ground-claims
have less certainty however as they usually draw upon our background, contextual knowledge which
may not be accurate. It’s good to know when we are creating implied claims what sorts of background
information these are based upon in case these claims are challenged. So in the above example, the
ground claims that are purely descriptive are near impossible to dispute – “There are two multi-layered,
triangular objects” for example or perhaps even the claim, ―There are two sandwich halves sitting atop
napkins.” But an implied suggested by the descriptive ground claim, ―The sandwich contains organic
lettuce‖ or ―Lunch is ready to be eaten.‖ are relatively uncertain. If we really wanted to convince someone
of these implied claims we probably would need to provide further evidence. This is not the case
however, with ground claims. Often ground claims are considered, self-evident and thus true if they
simply describe what we receive as sense perceptions. Later when we discuss argument diagramming (the
MC-P method in chapter seven), it will be emphasized that basic premises should be our most self-evident
A claim that immediately describes this ground might be: There is a turkey sandwich sitting on a napkin.
C. The content of claims: what kinds of ideas do claims communicate?
Claims, sentences made of word-symbols that are either true or false, can either describe reality in an
objective or subjective manner, tell us how things ought to be, or tell us how various word-symbols are
to be defined.
1. Objective & Factual claims
Objective claims state how things are in the world and are usually termed objective claims because the
truth of such claims depends on the nature of the existence of things independent of, or ―outside‖ of… us
(we are ―subjects‖; things outside of us are ―objects‖). The truth or falsity of objective claims depends on
some set of ―objects‖ out there in the world. Thus they are termed objective claims. If an objective claim
can be verified through established methods of testing, say the scientific method, we call these factual
claims. Claims that do not meet these standards are considered non-factual claims. Most philosophers
consider all subjective claims to be non-factual and of course many objective claims are non-factual as
well. Can you see why this is?
Objective claims that tell us why something happened are called explanations. Explanations or “causal
explanations” describe cause and effect relations in the world and often have the form, A because B.
Examples of objective claims: #1 - ―There is a lamp on Mr. Anelli’s desk.‖; #2 - ―Highway 99 is 425
miles in length.‖; #3 - ―When the body dies, our eternal spirit is released.‖ While all three are objective
claims (the truth of each depends not on what I feel or think but on how things are in the ―real‖ world),
they are not all factual claims. #3 is not a factual claim as there exists no plausible way of testing this
claim to see if true. #2 by the way is a false objective, factual claim and #1 is true. #1 and #2 are factual
because both are testable claims.
Examples of explanatory claims: #1 – ―Electricity causes lights to go on.‖; #2 – ―I am tired because I
did not sleep well last night.‖
2. Subjective claims
Subjective claims say how things are inside of us. Usually feelings, desires, values, wants, and needs fall
under the category of subjective claims because the truth of such claims depends entirely on the
emotional or belief-state of the subject – that’s you or me.
While subjective claims are in a sense always true, objective claims may be true or false. For this reason
sometimes we try to pass off an objective claim as a subjective claim by using words like ―opinion‖
―feels‖, etc. Thus it’s important when evaluating the truth of claims to first determine whether one is
dealing with a subjective or objective claim. WARNING: Use of words like “feel” or “opinion” do not
alone guarantee that a claim is subjective!
Examples of subjective claims: #1 – ―I am feeling hungry right now.‖ #2 – ―I prefer to go hiking
today.‖ #3 – ―I am confused and uncertain about the answer.‖
Note: the following statement is an objective claim: ―I feel, in my opinion, that superman is real.‖ This is
not a subjective claim because the truth of this claim depends on how things are ―out there‖ in the real
world – i.e. – whether or not a superman does or does not exist. The use of the word ―feel‖ here does not
automatically make this a subjective claim!
3. Value claims – claims that tell us the value of something
Value claims tell us if something is good or bad. Four types of value claims are discussed below: moral
claims, prudential claims, legal claims, and aesthetic claims.
a. Moral claims
Moral claims tell us what is right or wrong and address rights and obligations that the agent (that’s you or
me by the way) ought to accept. These are considered claims because it makes sense to ask if moral
claims are true or false.
Examples: It’s morally wrong to pay workers less than what they need to eat, have a home, and
have access to healthcare. It’s morally wrong to irreparably destroy the environment when
creating products for consumption.
Moral claims also include fundamental values that we all agree upon as evidenced by how we actually
live and expect to be treated by others.
Example: Don’t be rude towards strangers.
Here is an example of a moral claim used as a conclusion in a moral argument and supported by a
You ought to be a vegetarian because it’s better for the earth and the animal species.
b. Prudential claims
Prudential claims attempt to persuade us to believe or do something because it is in our own self-interest
to believe or do that thing. Prudential arguments thus address the connection between actions and the ends
the agent desires.
Example: You ought to be a vegetarian because you’ll live longer and healthier.
Note that while the wording of the claim, ―you ought to be a vegetarian” is identical in both examples
above, it is a moral claim in the former instance and a prudential claim in the latter.
c. Legal claims
Legal claims are similar to moral claims in that they are prescriptive but different in that legal claims are
limited to societal institutions of courts, legislators, the justice system, and the government. For example,
if we don’t abide by legal prescriptive claims that are laws, we can be punished. While there is much
overlap between moral and legal claims, moral prescriptions and laws are not identical. Some laws are
immoral – for instance slavery and apartheid were legal in the United States from the 17th century until
1865 when slavery was abolished and the Civil Rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s which ended
U.S. apartheid. Today, both sides of the abortion debate consider many of our current laws on abortion to
be immoral. Behaviors that many consider to be immoral – rudeness, lying, promiscuity, swearing – are
not illegal. Finally we have laws that are morally neutral – for example, electrical and plumbing codes.
Legal reasoning generally falls into two categories: legal philosophy and the practice of law.9 Legal
philosophy emphasizes questions such as, ―What should the law be?‖ or ―Which laws should be
rescinded?‖ Practicing lawyers tend to ask instead, ―Given X law, how should X law be applied in this
specific case?‖ Of course similar types of legal reasoning are used by both camps. Below are some
common types of legal reasoning:
Three general types of legal reasoning
Legal moralism: X behavior Appeal to precedent or stare
should be illegal because X decisis (Latin: ―don’t change
behavior is immoral. settled decisions‖): If X legal
case is sufficiently similar to
a previously decided legal
case Y, then the judgment in
X should be the same as the
Harm principle: X behavior judgment in Y.
should be illegal because X
behavior is harmful to others. This is an argument by
a. Legal paternalism: X behavior should
be illegal because X behavior is harmful
b. Offense principle: X behavior should
be illegal because X behavior greatly
d. Aesthetic claims
Aesthetic claims, value claims about art and beauty, ask questions like, ―Is X object beautiful?‖ or ―Is X
object an art object?‖ ―Is X art-object valuable?‖ Objects include visual objects, music objects, human
behavior, or natural objects. Needless to say, there is no consensus among philosophers as to what counts
as beautiful or aesthetically valuable. Some examples of the different philosophical principles used to
judge an object as aesthetically valuable10 are:
● It teaches us something new about universal, profound truths.
● It educates us as to what our culture thinks is beautiful.
● It helps to bring about political change.
Brooke Moore and Richard Parker, Critical reasoning, 8th edition, McGraw Hill, New York, 2006
By using the term ―aesthetically valuable‖ here I can sidestep the complicated issues surrounding the term ―beautiful.‖
● It produces deep pleasure
● It brings about valuable and important emotions in those who experience X object.
● It possesses properties that accord with an ideal aesthetic form or formula. .
● It is able to separate us from our prejudices and emotions thereby creating a space of
psychological freedom and opening which in turns allows us to see directly a new perspective.
Personally some of these I find too vague to be very helpful and the range of art objects is so wide that it’s
probably impossible to ever arrive at a full analytical definition of art or beauty. But then again, perhaps
my intuition here is simply wrong. Here are some art objects below. Which do you think is most
Beautiful? Ugly? Offensive? Thought provoking? ―aesthetically valuable‖?
Can you think of any other purposes to claims not mentioned above? If you can, type out (1
page minimum) and explain these other purposes and submit to me for extra credit. See footnote 5
for extra credit policy.
Definitions: The all-new, all-powerful, anti-
vague, anti-ambiguity vaccine!. Judicious use
of definitions wards off the most egregious
vague and ambiguous words. Only $49.95!
Unlimited time offer!
Definitions tell us what a word means by using other words.11 Definitions covered here are stipulative,
explanatory, and essential definitions. A misuse of definitions is the persuasive definition. Some do not
consider definitions to be claims since the role of definitions is to tell us how to use a word or phrase and
so perhaps it does not make sense to ask if definitions are true or false. Definitions are usually used in
arguments to clarify key terms (and ward off ambiguity) in other claims.
a. Stipulative definitions: to tell us how you will use a word
Stipulative definitions tell the reader how you are going to use a word or term. You are giving your own,
personal twist or version of a given definition. This is often very helpful when constructing arguments
that use words whose general definition is too vague or ambiguous to convey your point. To ensure that
your reader does not ―strawman you‖ or does not interpret your key terms in the wrong way, it is
sometimes necessary to redefine a key term more narrowly than is usually the case in order to be
absolutely clear to the reader.
Example: “What I mean by entertainment is the passive enjoyment of music or video brought to
us by sophisticated media technology.‖
b. Explanatory Definitions (Explanations)
Explanatory comparisons or definitions are used to tell us what something means by giving us an
equivalent expression or alternate description. In other words, explanations in this sense are paraphrases
of what is being explained or "saying the same thing in another way." I suppose explanations in this sense
can be considered to be stylistic variants of what is being illustrated — but only if the explanation
immediately follows what is being explained. Explanatory definitions are sometimes called synonymous
Explanatory definitions are often preceded by phrases such as: For example… In other words… or What
I mean is… or because…
Example: A cup is an object for holding drinks, in other words, a cup is a thing that can
contain liquids that we ingest. The sentence beginning ―In other words,‖ would be the
explanatory definition or descriptive explanation.
Note: other indicators work as well here:
An exception here is what Wittgenstein refers to as ostensive definitions in which we point at a thing to define it. For
example, ―that over there is what a tree is.‖
A cup is an object for holding drinks, for example, a cup is a thing that can contain liquids that we
A cup is an object for holding drinks because a cup is a thing that can contain liquids that we
A cup is an object for holding drinks. What I mean is that a cup is a thing that can contain liquids
that we ingest.
An explanatory definition of entertainment based on the stipulative definition above would be the
following: ―Entertainment is the passive enjoyment of music or video brought to us by
sophisticated media technology. In other words, entertainment is the happiness we receive when
we listen to or watch items on media devices.‖ So here, the underlined section would be the
c. Essential Definitions:
Essential (also called analytical) definitions are the ―gold standard‖ of definitions because these
definitions are the most precise and demonstrate deeper understanding of the word being defined than
other sorts of definitions. In order to provide an essential – or analytical - definition you must meet the
four criteria below:
1). The definition includes the group or class that the word being defined belongs to.
All things that we can define analytically or essentially belong to some ―larger‖ group or type, to
something more general. For example, humans belong to the ―larger‖ and more general type or
group called, ―mammals.‖ Mammals belong to the larger, more general group called ―animals‖.
Animals belong to the larger, more general group, ―Life forms‖.
You can choose from many different larger groups when you provide the type or group for the
thing being analytically defined. So you could say, ―Humans are life forms that….‖ But… the
more general or larger the group you choose, the more you’ll have to work in step #2 below.
Why? Because obviously there are many more things that fit under the group ―life forms‖ than
―mammals‖ and thus you’ll need to do more work to differentiate humans from other life forms
instead of simply differentiating humans from other mammals.
2) The definition includes a list of qualities or properties that differentiate the word being
defined from other words that also belong to the group listed in #1 above.
3) The definition includes a list of qualities or properties that cover all specific or particular
examples of the word being defined.
Note: The list of qualities in #2 and #3 may be identical as long as the list covers all examples of
the word being defined and differentiates the word from other words that belong to the same class.
4) None of the properties listed in #2 and #3 above may be synonyms of the word being
Here’s an example. Let’s try to analytically define the word, ―entertainment‖ using the four steps above.
We will begin our search for the essential definition by using our stipulative definition above.
Step 1: Begin by specifying the group or class to which “entertainment” belongs:
―Entertainment is a type of human activity.”
As you can see if we stopped here our definition would be too ambiguous to be useful.
Step 2: List the qualities that differentiate “entertainment” from all other human activities:
―Entertainment is a type of human activity in which we passively enjoy music or video brought to
us by sophisticated media technology.”
In step 2, does this definition exclude all other human activities that are not entertainment? For
instance the human activity of working at a job? Or taking classes? Or taking care of an ill friend?
After thinking for a few minutes I could not think of non-entertainment human activities that
include ―passively enjoying music or video via sophisticated media technology.‖ So far so good.
Let’s move on to step three.
Step 3: Does this definition fit every example or individual example of what we normally call
Are there any human activities that are entertainment but do not involve ―passively enjoying music
or video via sophisticated media technology?‖ After thinking for five minutes and consulting my
brother Ed, I realized that many examples of entertainment do not fit my evolving definition
above. For example, attending an acoustic guitar concert or a puppet show. In neither case do we
receive the experience from sophisticated media technology. And how about playing video games
such as Grand Thought Philosopher I®?12 Yes this is mediated by sophisticated technology but is
this passive? I don’t think so since I actively control my character as he debates the philosopher
Socrates in downtown Modesto.
At this point it is clear – my original definition has failed since it did not pass step three. At this
point I need to return and revise my original definition so that it fits all examples of our general
experience of entertainment.
Step 4: Avoidance of synonyms?
Yes. Here I successfully avoided synonyms but since I failed step three my definition did not
provide the essential properties of entertainment.
It may not be possible to fully define some (or any?) word in this manner. However, even if this is the
case, developing a stronger essential definition can be very useful. Going through this process often
clarifies for us the limitations of a word’s meaning and tells us where crucial ambiguities lie.
Can you come up with an essential definition of entertainment that passes steps 1, 2, 3, and 4
above? I will award you extra credit points if you are able to do so. Also, tell me what you
think of your dictionary’s definition of entertainment? Does this satisfy the criteria for an
essential definition? See footnote 5 for extra credit policy.
Oddly enough, this game has not been invented yet. However, if you create a first-person role playing video game featuring
famous philosophers debating the gamer - complete with five wisdom levels, I will award you lots of credit.
E. Danger: Vagueness and Ambiguity
“Far too often, the bells and whistles of PowerPoint are used as a crutch by people
who don't have anything to say. . . If your words aren't truthful, the finest optically
letter spaced typography won't help. And if your images aren't on point, making them
dance in color in three dimensions won't help." - Edward Tufte, Data Designer, 2006
Now I wish to introduce to you two crucially important concepts: vagueness and ambiguity. Both are
cases in which words or terms are so unclear that we don’t know what another’s word-symbols represent
A claim contains a vague term if the term is indistinct, has no sharp boundaries, if its range of application
is fuzzy, its precise quantities are unspecified, and the author does not clarify the vague terms elsewhere in
the passage. Vagueness is always a problem of how much? Or, to what degree? Usually, vague terms are
Examples of common vague words or terms are: ―soon,‖ ―some of,‖ ―often,‖ ―occasionally,‖ ―many‖.
Note: superlatives are never vague. Why? Because superlatives, terms that express the extreme degree of
comparison of an adjective or adverb, as in best or brightest, all, always, never, are clear. There is no
question regarding the boundary or range of application of superlative words.
Here are some examples of vagueness in language:
#1 - Labeling on bread package: "This bread is fresh." Fresh is vague - How soon
out of the oven constitutes fresh? One hour? One day? One week?
#2 "Her test scores were high." High is vague - How high? Top 1% high? Top 20% high?
#3 - ―Ten minutes a day of FlexMotion™ will give your body flexibility!‖
Flexibility is vague. How flexible? Just a little? Or as flexible as the woman on the
#4 - Edward Tufte, described by The New York Times as "The Leonardo da Vinci of Data"
pointed out recently during an interview on National Public Radio (91.3 FM) the possible
consequences of using vague language. After the Columbia space shuttle disaster, NASA
asked the builders of the Columbia space shuttle, Boeing Corporation, whether they thought
that falling foam pieces could damage the tile exterior of the shuttle. Boeing, in a series of
power point presentations stated:
“A review of test data indicates a degree of conservatism for tile penetration [by falling foam
debris]. The footnote to this slide then stated, ―Our conservatism is based on lab tests that differed
significantly from what occurred in the shuttle.‖
As Tufte points out their confidence was based on lab tests that ―significantly‖ from what occurred at
liftoff. Tufte points out that the term ―significantly‖ is vague – how different were the lab tests from the
actual event during lift off? Tufte points out that Boeing didn’t need to be vague here. They should have
fessed up and admitted openly that the piece of foam that struck the shuttle was 640 times larger than the
piece of foam that Boeing tested in their lab experiments (in which they tested to see if the falling foam
pieces could damage the shuttle tiles). The lab tests used to determine that there was not much risk (―a
degree of conservatism‖) used a piece of foam that was significantly smaller than the foam piece that
destroyed the shuttle and thus it’s hard to see how Boeing concluded that they had sufficient information
to say that the risk was ―conservative.‖
2. Ambiguous terms
Terms or claims are ambiguous if:
1) The terms or claims have two or more distinct, possible meanings and
2) In the given context the reader cannot determine which meaning is the intended meaning. If
the passage in which the ―ambiguity‖ occurs clarifies the ambiguity, then the term is not
ambiguous. If the context in which the ―ambiguity‖ occurs obviously eliminates alternative
meanings (which would be obviously ―absurd‖) then the claim is not ambiguous.
Ambiguous terms may be one or more words. Ambiguous expressions are problems of which kind?
Final note: a claim or term may simultaneously be vague and ambiguous.
"This is a free country." "Free" is ambiguous; it could refer to: 1) the free enterprise system or 2)
Note: if the passage read instead, ―This is a free country. What I mean is that we have a free
economic system of capitalism,” then free would not be ambiguous any longer.
"Our product is better." "Better" is ambiguous; it could refer to: 1) "better than it was before" or
2) it could refer to "better than other products." By the way, better is also vague: how much, to
what degree is it better? Much better? Somewhat better? a little better?
As stated before, one way to prevent undue ambiguity in your own writing is to give definitions of terms you use that are
likely to be ambiguous. Don’t assume that your reader can read your mind. Instead make use of definitions which serve as an
―antidote to ambiguity.‖
"He is a good advertiser." "Good" is ambiguous; it could refer to: 1) acting ethically or 2) it could
refer to acting successfully. Good is also vague: how much, to what degree is it good? Very good?
Somewhat good? a little good?
“Lasik has the most value-oriented fees in Northern California.” Value-oriented fees is
semantically ambiguous – 1) do they mean the lowest prices for Lasik surgery? Or 2) the best
value for the money? What is meant by ―oriented‖ here? Sort of value but not entirely? Oriented
is also vague here – very oriented towards value or somewhat oriented towards value? By the way,
most is not vague since it is a superlative.
“Choose from over 2,300 of the newest slots and our red-hot video poker machines”
Red-hot is semantically ambiguous. Do they mean 1) optimal odds for the gambler to win money?
(these red-hot machines are just spewing out coinage into happy hands.) or, 2) are they exciting
and really fun slot games? Or, 3) is the design of the machines very appealing with fancy stripes,
blinking lights, and Betty Boop stickers?
Note: if you said that a possible meaning of red-hot was that the machines are literally very hot
and could burn your hand this would not be a possible meaning since common sense excludes
this. Yes? Also, ―newest‖ is not vague since newest is a superlative. ―Over‖ is, strictly speaking
vague although I would ignore this since they do tell us that there are over 2,300 machines. So yes,
it’s unclear how many more than 2,300? 5,000? 10,000? But this is unfair since common sense
tells us that they probably mean close to 2,300, say 2,320 machines.
One commonly overlooked instance of ambiguity is the failure by the media to clarify the ambiguous
nature of the word, average. If not clarified, the word average can mean either: 1) mean or 2) median.14
a. Mean = what we commonly call average. A mean = the total amount of X group divided
by the number of individuals that compose X group. Means – or averages are often
meaningless. For example if Bill Gates were to step into our classroom, the average
(mean) wealth of every person in the classroom would be $1.5 billion dollars. Obviously
this tells us nothing about the wealth of most of us in the classroom.
b. Median = usually, median is much more informative than ―mean‖ or ―average.‖ A median
is the halfway figure between a range of figures. In our example above, were Bill Gates to
step into our classroom, the average (median) wealth would be around, um, $20,000?
Clearly, the median is more informative and meaningful in this example than the mean.
So be sure to check whenever you hear the word average. Do they mean median or mean?
See if you can identify the vague and ambiguous terms in this recent statement by former Secretary of
State, Mr. Colin Powell. See the footnote15 below for my answers.
Or, less commonly, the notion of mode. Mode is the most common occurring figure in a range of figures
"The United States is not stingy," Mr. Powell said in a CNN interview, one of several in which he signaled that the United
States' contribution to relief would be extensive. "We are the greatest contributor to international relief efforts in the world."
(New York Times, A1, 12-28-05)
Signaled: this is ambiguous. What type of signal? - 1) does this mean that he suggested or implied without commitment that
we would give aid? or 2) does this mean that he forcefully, without prodding by reporters, stated that the U.S. would definitely
aid victims of the recent tsunami tragedy in southeast Asia.
"The United States is not stingy," Mr. Powell said in a CNN interview, one of several in which he
signaled that the United States' contribution to relief would be extensive. "We are the greatest
contributor to international relief efforts in the world." (New York Times, A1, 12-28-05)
Finally, take a look at the following two advertisements. Can you identify important vague and
ambiguous terms here?
Vague terms in the CheckMates Ad: ____________________________________________________
Ambiguous terms (and two meanings for each) in the CheckMates Ad:
Vague terms in the Talbots Ad: _________________________________________________________
Ambiguous terms (and two meanings for each) in the Talbots Ad:
Contribution: this is ambiguous. What type of contribution? - 1) will we give money?, 2) will we give engineering expertise
and knowledge of how to rebuild?, 3) will we send excess supplies of food items and clothing?, 4) will the U.S. government
give these contributions or will the U.S. government organize and direct charities to give?
Extensive: is vague - how extensive exactly? Super duper extensive? Very extensive? Somewhat extensive?
Greatest contributor: is ambiguous. Which definition is he using here? - 1) is the U.S. the greatest contributor in total
dollars? (generally the answer is yes) or 2) is the U.S. the greatest contributor per person (the answer is no - Europeans give
much more per person in foreign aid) or 3) is the U.S. the greatest contributor as a percentage of our budget or wealth? (again,
the answer is no). So was Powell being deceptive here? Which definition above of contribution is most meaningful? By the
way, according to the New York Times, most Americans believe the United States spends 24 percent of its budget on aid to
poor countries; it actually spends well under a quarter of 1 percent .
Are there any other vague or ambiguous uses of language by Colin Powell not listed above?
F. Recap: Concepts you need to know
3. Signs vs. Symbols
4. Objective claim
5. Subjective claim
6. Factual claim
7. Non-factual claim
8. Explanatory claim
10. Moral claim
11. Prudential claim
12. Legal claim
13. Aesthetic claim
14. Essential definition
15. Stipulative definition
16. Stylistic variants (explanatory definition)
III. ARGUMENTS & EXPLANATIONS – AN
A. Issues: What Arguments Attempt To Resolve
Issues are any matter of controversy, uncertainty or debate between people or within oneself. Arguments are
put forth in order to resolve or give an ―answer‖ to an issue and the main conclusion of an argument is what
the arguer wants you to believe about the issue.
We can usually identify the issue by using the ―whether‖ test: insert the word ―whether‖ in front of the claim
that one side thinks is correct and the other side thinks is wrong. The claim that follows the word ―whether‖ is
Identifying issues is helpful for a couple of reasons: 1) as stated above, the main conclusion is an attempt to
resolve an issue. Thus, if one can identify the issue then one can identify the main conclusion of an argument;
2) Secondly, we are often unable to make progress in an argument because more than one issue, and thus more
than one argument, are being discussed. Sometimes the person you are arguing with will subtly change the
issue (red herring fallacy). If you don’t recognize this, it will be much more difficult to understand and
evaluate the argument at hand. So it is important to first separate the issues and their supporting arguments,
and then decide which issue and supporting argument to evaluate or discuss.
Here is an example in this discussion between Chester and Sweet Pea:
Chester: “I’ve noticed that you are now drinking a gallon of Coca-Cola everyday. I think this is a bad idea as
it’s going to make you gain weight and lose your teeth due to tooth decay from the refined sugar they use.”
Sweet Pea: “Look, Coca-Cola provides lots of good-paying jobs to people and besides, you really ought to
keep your moral opinions to yourself.”
While Chester and Sweet Pea are discussing related issues they are not discussing the same issue and thus
neither can help the other to determine if their arguments are good. The issue that Chester is discussing is
whether Coca-Cola is healthy. Chester is making a prudential appeal to Sweet Pea, not a moral appeal. The
issues that Sweet Pea is raising is whether Coca-Cola is an ethical company that supports the community.
Sweet Pea erroneously thinks that Chester is raising a moral issue. He is not. He’s raising the prudential issue
of health. Hopefully their discussion will evolve to the point where each addresses the other’s issues.
B. Arguments: premise-claim(s) + conclusion claim(s)
As mentioned above, an argument is one or more premise claim(s) that support, or give one reason to
believe, a main conclusion claim.
So, whenever you support your beliefs with separate reasons or premises, rather than merely state these
beliefs, you have produced an argument. An argument in our sense differs from arguments in the
everyday sense. In the everyday sense, people argue when they angrily accuse each other, or vent their
anger in a dispute. But these are quarrels, and they do not involve arguments in our sense unless the
disputants give reasons for their claims.
C. Inferences and Implications
In arguments, the technical term for the idea of ―giving support for one’s beliefs‖ or ―giving reasons for
someone to believe an opinion‖ is the term, ―inference.” An inference is the mental process of moving
from a premise to a conclusion. Or, alternately we may say that inferences are when we ―draw a
conclusion‖ from a premise(s). Only people and intelligent extraterrestrials can infer (ok, if your dog uses
language to think, then your little dog can also infer. But so far there is no evidence, despite many dog
owners’ claims to be suitably situated experts, that dogs ―think‖ with word-symbols). By the way as
soon as one makes an inference, one has made an argument. If you have an argument then you have an
inference and vice versa.
An implication on the other hand is a claim that is initially unstated,
but strongly suggested by a ground (an event) or claim. In an
implication the truth of one claim or ground suggests the truth of the
other but does not require it.16
For example, the sentence Thomas has a fern plant in his room by itself
strongly suggests or implies the further claim that Thomas watered the
fern plant at some point in the past month. Of course if we are aware
that the fern plan is made of plastic then the implication is cancelled
even though the meaning of the original sentence is not altered.
What, if anything, is implied by this
Or… ―The spike in electricity usage during the months of July and sign?
August in Modesto implied that Modestans were using their air
Conditionals (If/then claims) discussed below on page 53, also contain implications from the antecedent
to the consequent claims. For example,
If Bush gives $5 billion instead of $35 million to the tsunami disaster survivors, then the chances
of long-term survival for the survivors will be greatly increased.
In this case, if the antecedent claim, the U.S. will give $5 billion in aid to the survivors turns out to be the
case, then it will imply that the survivor’s long-term survival will be enhanced.
Whereas people infer, claims or grounds imply
Whereas only people can infer, events or human statements can imply. Now you might object that events
or claims don’t have ―consciousness‖, they are just inert ―things‖ and thus cannot ―do‖ anything including
imply. Instead you might point out that it is people who ―do‖ the implying, not grounds. An important
distinction, however, must be kept in mind. With inferences the locus is on the thinker – you or I – to
move to a conclusion based on given premises. Often we are given both premises and a main conclusion
and asked to move from the premises to the main conclusion on our own – that is, to believe the main
conclusion put forth by the author based on the given premises. We must exert mental energy to ―move‖
from the premise or premises to the conclusion. Thus it is often stated that we draw conclusions from the
given premise(s) to the given main conclusion. We must think about it.
In formal logic an implication is a type of conditional that is a necessary suggestion from one claim to another. In this course
however we are using a pragmatic (linguistic) definition of imply more in line with everyday usage of the term.
With implications, while we obviously are involved, the locus is on the claim or ground itself as
suggesting a conclusion. You might think of the claim or event as a beacon that continues to point to one
or more strongly suggested claims whether or not we are there to see it.17 Then, we come along and see
what the event or claim has been suggesting all along.
Our refusal to see the implications of our own statements can lead to unnecessary interpersonal conflict.
Let’s be a fly on the wall during a discussion between Susan and Alejandro:
Alejandro (with mild sarcasm): ―It’s interesting that you analyze and question every little thing I say
when we are having conversations!”
[Susan then sees that this statement and Alejandro’s mildly sarcastic tone (a ground) implies that Susan is
stressing out Alejandro, that Susan is irritating Alejandro which in turn implies that Alejandro doesn’t like
hanging out with Susan so much. What do you think? Does Alejandro’s statement imply these things?].
Susan: ―I do not. You always think that I’m stressing you out. Well, you’re not so easy to deal with
yourself you know.”
Alejandro (with surprise): ―Did I say I was stressing you out? I didn’t say that. In fact I was just making
So what is going on here? Susan sees that Alejandro’s statement implies that Susan is stressing out
Alejandro, which he later denies. Perhaps he was only making an observation but Alejandro was, at the
least, insensitive to his use of sarcasms and thus might be responsible for causing Susan’s defensiveness.
Had both taken a critical thinking class they would have handled this a bit differently and more
Alejandro might have taken responsibility for the possible implications of her initial statement and made
clear his position.
For example he might have said, ―It’s interesting that you analyze and question everything I say when we
are having conversations. Now, don’t get me wrong. I like this since I love to be challenged but it’s just
so rare to find such an invigorating discussion partner. Someone who really cares what I say. I’d like to
develop this capacity in myself as well.‖
Susan might have checked in with Alejandro regarding the implications of his statement before becoming
defensive. For example, ―Alejandro - what you just said implies that you don’t like hanging out with me.
Is that true?”
Alejandro would then have been able to set Susan straight by adding further statements which, taken
together, do not imply that he doesn’t want to hang out with Susan.
Of course this begs the question, from where do grounds that are utterances or premises obtain their beacons? When grounds
are composed of word-symbols don’t the implications of words come from humans in the end? And, as discussed in chapter
two, it is true that humans create word-symbols and their implications. But this is done collectively, gradually, and not by any
single individual. Thus since you or I are not creating these implications from given word-symbols we can be said to see or
discover these implications instead of creating them. Culture on the other hand is responsible for creating these implications.
Do you agree?
While implications are suggestions from claims, entailments are necessary suggestions by
claims. For example, the leader was assassinated does not just suggest that The leader is
dead is true; it requires it. There is no way that the first sentence could be true without the
second sentence being true; if the leader weren't dead then whatever happened to him
wouldn't have counted as a (successful) assassination. Similarly, unlike implications,
entailments cannot be cancelled; there is no qualification that you could add to The leader
was assassinated which would cause it not to entail The leader is dead while also preserving
the meaning of the first sentence.
One final note: although inferences and implications are distinctly different concepts, they are related.
Implications often are used to build arguments and make inferences. If statement-A is seen to imply
statement-B then one might decide to make an inference from statement-A to a belief in the truth of
D. Argument Types: Deductive, Inductive, Good, Bad
Below is an overview of deductive and inductive arguments followed by a comparison chart that
provides the criteria for good and bad arguments. Later, in the following chapters, we’ll examine the
mechanics of these argument types more closely.
1. Deductive arguments
Deductive arguments are arguments in which the given premises, if true, guarantee 100% the truth of the
conclusion. Or we can say that a deductive argument is one in which it is impossible for the premises to
be true and the conclusion false. Deductive arguments and valid arguments are synonymous expressions
in philosophy. Other stylistic variants of the definition of a deductive argument:
The premises, if true, entail the conclusion.
The premises, if true, 100% support the conclusion.
Here’s an example: Arnold Schwarzenegger is a Hollywood film star and all Hollywood film stars know
how to govern California. Thus Arnold Schwarzenegger knows how to govern California.
If we assume that the premises are true, then together the first two claims – or premises – must, 100%,
lead to the conclusion that Arnold S. knows how to govern California. This is a valid argument. But is it a
2. Inductive arguments
Inductive arguments are arguments whose premises, if true, offer us a good reason to believe the main
conclusion of the argument. Or we can say that an inductive argument is such that it is unlikely, if the
premises are true, that the conclusion is false. Other stylistic variants of the definition of a deductive
The premises, if true, offer 99% support for the conclusion.
The premises likely led one to believe the conclusion.
Inductive reasoning is when we extend what we have observed to what we have not observed
where the number of similarities between the two make further similarities likely.
Assuming the premises are true, then it’s very likely that the main conclusion is true.
Here’s an example: Arnold Schwarzenegger is a Hollywood film star and most Hollywood film stars know
something about acting. Thus Arnold Schwarzenegger knows something about acting.
The first two claims or premises are indeed true. Do most Hollywood film stars know something about
acting? Well, maybe they are not very good actors but certainly most know something about acting. Are
these two premises together a good reason to believe that Arnold knows something about acting? Yes. Do
the two premises taken together, guarantee, 100%, that the conclusion is true? No – it’s possible (although
very unlikely) that the premises are true yet the conclusion is false. So the argument (and its inferences),
are inductive, not deductive.
The chapter on inductive reasoning beginning on page 81, contains more detail on inductive arguments.
3. Good, Bad, Valid, & Sound Arguments
It’s a bit silly to make an argument without caring whether the argument is good or bad. In fact as you
may have noticed, the conditions required for a good argument are ―built in‖ to the definitions above for
deductive and inductive arguments. As soon as you start thinking in terms of deductive or inductive you
are already engaged in the evaluation of arguments. Is my argument a good argument? Does it lack the
criteria of a good argument? Of course many (most?) arguments fail to meet these criteria and thus are
deemed bad arguments.
When constructing your own arguments or evaluating those of others you will consider two factors:
Criterion 1: Whether or not the premises are true (this is discussed in greater detail in the section
that begins on page 99).
Criterion 2: Whether or not the premises, if true, support the conclusion. (this is covered in the
chapters on deductive and inductive arguments)
If both criteria are met then the argument is a good argument. If either or both of these criteria are not
met then the argument is a bad one.
The first criterion above, true premises, is fairly straightforward. A premise is a claim and a claim is a
statement that tells us how things are in reality. If the claim does accurately describe how things are in
reality then it’s a true claim. If it misrepresents how things are in reality then it’s a false claim. Good
arguments have true premises. If you don’t know whether the premise is true or it is false then you don’t
have a good argument.
The second criterion above, inferences that support the conclusion, can be confusing since deductive
and inductive arguments have different inferential standards. If an argument contains either valid or
deductive inferences, then the second criterion above is met. All deductive/valid arguments and inferences
have premises that, if true, 100% support the conclusion. If the inferences are valid and the premises are
also true then the argument is a good and sound argument. You might consider this to be the ―gold
standard‖ for arguments.
On the other hand if the inferences are not valid, and the argument is inductive and not deductive, then
you are going to have to accept some uncertainty as to whether or not the premises, if true, offer ―good
enough‖ reason to accept the conclusion. If the premises do offer good enough reason (but not 100%
guarantee) – the inferences are strong - and the premises are in fact true, then you also have a good
argument.18 You should note that the ―Premise Test‖ below uses the ―easiest‖ standard for a good
argument – that of good arguments. Needless to say, if an argument is sound it also passes the Premise
First Criterion: Second Criterion: Are Evaluation: Is
Are the premises the inferences valid, the argument
true? strong, or weak? good or bad?
True Premises Valid or Deductive Sound (Good)
+ Inferences/Argument Argument
True Premises + Strong Inductive
False Premises +/or Inferences
False Premises +/or Weak Inference
Let’s return to our first Terminator argument. Here it is again:
Arnold Schwarzenegger is a Hollywood film star and all Hollywood film stars know how to govern
California. Thus Arnold Schwarzenegger knows how to govern California.
What do you think? Is it a good or bad argument? Using the above concepts, can you say why it is good
While this is a valid argument, it is not a good argument. In fact it’s a bad argument. Although the
inferences are valid, one of the premises is false. Thus it’s a weak or bad argument. Which premise is the
Technically all good, inductive arguments have invalid inferences although we don’t normally use the term invalid in this
way. Invalid usually refers to an argument intended to be valid but discovered to be invalid.
E. Argument and Explanation tests
The premise-test is a quick method, if pressed for time, to determine if an inference or argument meets
the minimal criteria for inductive strength. We will practice this in class and emphasize this throughout
the course so you should pay special attention to what follows below. Not only does the premise test tell
one if the inference is inductively strong or good, the premise test indicates that one is dealing with an
argument and not, say, an explanation. Arguments and explanations are different. In arguments,
premises are given in order to support the belief in a conclusion. Arguments tell why we should believe or
do something. Explanations on the other hand tell us why something happened or occurred. Sometimes a
sentence can be both an argument and explanation at the same time. In other words a sentence can tell us
why we should believe something and simultaneously tell us why something happened. To make matters
even more confusing both arguments and explanations can have the same grammatical form, “A because
B” in which ―A‖ stands for the subject and ―B‖ stands for the predicate of a sentence. Both the premise-
test and explanation-tests help us to determine whether we are dealing with an argument, an explanation
or both. When evaluating a statement to see if it is an argument with a premise or an explanation, keep in
mind that you should always run both tests for each statement that you are evaluating.
1. Premise Test
Premise Test19: Given the form, ―A because B‖, suppose I did not know that claim A was true.
Would B alone be a good reason for believing A is true?
Note: If the ―B‖ part contains more than one premise, then when applying the test ask whether both
premises taken together are a good reason to believe that A is true.
If the answer to the Premise Test is yes, then ―B‖ passes the Premise Test and can be considered a
premise that does what premises set out to do, that is, lead you (or any rational person) to believe the
conclusion, ―A.‖ By the way, you have also shown this to be a good or strong argument, assuming that
the given premise, ―B‖ is true.
The Premise Test is quite helpful both for constructing good arguments and for evaluating others’
arguments. If you construct an argument with premises that do not pass the Premise Test you should
revise your argument accordingly. Likewise if you meet an argument with premises that fail the Premise
Test you can use this information to critique and, ideally, help improve their argument.
Remember though that the premise test is only a rough indicator of the strength of your inference or
argument. You should also employ the concepts covered in the later chapters on deductive, inductive, and
explanatory reasoning when evaluating such arguments or claims.
The implication test is another way to determine if an inference is strong or good. In other words, the implication test
performs the same function as the Premise Test.
Implication Test - "the premise(s) imply the conclusion if it is very unlikely for the conclusion to be false while the
premise(s) are true."
In the format above, we could say that given the form, ―A because B,‖ B implies A if it is very unlikely for A to be false while
B is true. In this case if B implies A, then B alone would be a good reason to believe A as well.
Example: John committed the murder because his fingerprints are on the weapon and a witness
In this case the ―B‖ of ―A because B‖ would be ―his fingerprints are on the weapon and a witness
identified him.” Are just these two assertions taken together (―B‖) a good reason to believe John
committed the murder (―A‖)? Yes – and thus ―B‖ contains premises in support of ―A‖ and we have a
2. Causal Explanation Test
Explanation Test: Given a sentence of the form, ―A because B‖, could B happening possibly
cause A to happen? If the answer is yes, then it passes the explanation test.
Using the same example:
Could the fact that his fingerprints were found on the weapon and someone identified him then cause him
to commit the murder? No, that does not make sense and it is not a causal explanation
1. She got an A in math because she studied very diligently for her math course every evening.
2. She got an A in math because she was intelligent.
3. He committed the murder because he needed money.
For #1. Above: Suppose you did not know that she got an A in math but you did know that she studied
for her math course diligently every evening. Would that be, by itself, a good reason for believing that
she got an A? Yes, so #1 passes the Premise Test. Now try the explanation test: is the fact that she
studied diligently for her math course every evening a possible cause for getting an A in math?
Absolutely. So #1 also passes the explanation test. Thus #1 is both a premise and an explanation.
For #2 above: Suppose you did not know that she got an A in math but you did know that she was
intelligent. Would that be, by itself, a good reason for believing that she got an A? No, so #2 does not
pass the Premise Test. Does it pass the explanation test? What do you think?
For #3 above: Suppose you did not know that he committed the murder but only knew that he needed
money. Would that alone be a reason to believe he committed the murder? No - unless you add some
other reasons, such as when he needs money he becomes desperate, etc. Does #3 pass the explanation
test? Yes, since his needing money is a possible cause for committing the murder.
Now you may notice that while ONE statement may not be a reason for believing something to be true, a
COMBINATION of statements tied TOGETHER may be good reasons for believing that something is
true. Below, on page 67 when we discuss diagramming arguments, we will refer to these as equally linked
premises. In an argument, linked premises are often preceded by equal premise indicators such as ―and,‖
―also,‖ ―furthermore,‖ or ―finally.‖
3. Implication Test
Implication Test: Given a sentence of the form, ―A because B‖, is it possible for B to be true and
A to be false? If this is absolutely not possible, then the implication test passes and A deductively
follows from B.
Are there cases in which the Premise Test passes but the Implication Test fails or vice versa? If
you can think up an example or two I will award you extra credit. Note See footnote 5 for extra credit
F. Recap – concepts you need to know from chapter three
7. Deductive arguments – definition
8. Inductive arguments – definition
9. Criteria for Good Arguments
10. Criteria for Valid Arguments
11. Criteria for Sound Arguments
12. Criteria for Bad Arguments
13. Premise Test
14. Causal Explanation Test
15. Implication Test
IV. DANGER: RHETORIC & GHOST ARGUMENTS
(FALLACIES – PART 1)
While an argument attempts to persuade with reasons (logical force), rhetoric attempts to persuade by
appealing to our emotions (psychological force). It's important to know the difference between rhetoric
and argument because as critical thinkers we try to ignore the emotional effects of rhetorical devices when
understanding and evaluating an argument unless an arguer’s use of rhetoric implies the existence of
Slanters are words that trick us into subconsciously accepting that an argument has been made for the
existence of some reality or event when in fact it’s still up for grabs whether the reality in question is true
or false. These slimy little slanter words or phrases try to manipulate us into thinking that the author has
already given a persuasive argument for something when in actuality no support has been given. Slanters
try to achieve this with proof surrogates or confidently asserting an unjustified bias using innuendo,
downplayers, or hyperbole - often appealing to our baser emotions of fear, greed, hatred, lust, or
Slanter words should make you suspicious since they imply that the author does not in fact have good
reasons for their opinions and is trying to hide this fact from us or is simply lazy. If the author had good
reasons why not simply provide them to us instead of using slanters? If they author is lazy, what else are
they failing to think carefully about?
a. Proof Surrogates
Instead of providing a credible source one tries to imply or pretend that a credible source exists without
ever stating what the source is. You can think of proof surrogates as a kind of ―switch and bait‖ – instead
of giving you the real deal, a good argument based upon credible premises, you are given the claim that
such source exists. Saying that a credible source exists that support your claims is not the same thing as
actually providing the credible source that supports your claims!
Here are some common introductory phrases that are often slanters since these words imply that an
argument has been given where in fact no argument can be found in the passage:
"Obviously…‖ "It is a well known fact that…" ―Studies show that…‖20
"Clearly…" "As we all know…" ―There is every reason to
believe‖ ―Everyone knows that…‖ ―It’s obvious that…‖
―Any idiot can see…" ―Some people say…/People say…‖
This phrase is not a slanter if you follow up by providing information that names the specific studies in a footnote or later in
the passage. At a minimum the citation should include the individual names and degrees of those who conducted the study, the
research institution, and the year that the study was conducted.
b. Innuendo and Downplayers
Innuendo – Innuendos are insinuations, suggestions, or implications that some other disparaging,
deprecatory, or insulting thing is true – without ever stating the insult ―out loud.‖ In the cartoon below is
an innuendo being made of students?
Downplayers – is a way to make someone or something look less important or significant than it actually
is without actually stating one’s negative view directly.
Example: “I know that Tracy is a really great soccer player but she can’t even score against a
seven year old!”
An extravagant overstatement; an exaggerated claim.
Example: “Her new hair style spray is ridiculous. The plastic cement spray that they used on her
hair is so strong that not even a hurricane could move her hair!”
d. Slanter Examples
#1 - Did Terri, at 26, really tell the man to whom she swore lifelong fidelity to find a way to kill her if she
became handicapped? - Pat Buchanan, ―The Execution of Terri Schiavo,‖ S.F. Chronicle, April 1, 200521
#2 - Sniping conservatives don't like Schwarzenegger surrounding himself with people who disagree. But
Schwarzenegger is a subversive, defying both parties. – Jill Stewart, ―Arnold's a centrist -- who knew?‖,
S.F. Chronicle, April 1, 2005.22
#3 - What is inexplicable is the behavior of the media talking heads, who seemed so desperately anxious
that the judge's ruling not be reversed and that Terri die. Why were they so pro-death? - Pat Buchanan,
―The Execution of Terri Schiavo,‖ S.F. Chronicle, April 1, 200523
#4 - Evidence that Schiavo did not want her life continued in its current state has been offered and
accepted in several courts. The next of kin should be legally designated to make the decision through
power of attorney. In the cases where a family splits on the decision, the case goes to court. The Schiavo
case has been litigated for seven years, the verdict upheld at every level (including the U.S. Supreme
Court, by refusing to hear arguments). It is beyond comprehension, not to mention the Constitution,
which the Congress of the United States and the president should have involved themselves. The very
Republicans who pushed for this arrogant, interfering bill, which if used across the board would take
away everyone's right to make their own decisions in these awful cases, are the same people who voted to
cut Medicaid, which pays for the care of people like Schiavo. – Molly Ivins, Pure Political Pandering,
March 24, 200524
There are two slanters here: ―kill‖ and ―handicapped‖ ―Kill‖ is a slanter in this context because nowhere in the column
does Mr. Buchanan present his argument that she was killed. As we all know, this is a controversial issue (is denying life
support to a person in a vegetative state an example of ―killing‖?) and thus needs to be supported in argument form by Mr.
Buchanan if he wishes the reader to take his views seriously.
―Handicapped‖ implies that Terry Schiavo’s situation is analogous to those who are fully aware but are disabled in some
manner. Thus by using this term, Buchanan implies that it has already been established, via argument, that Terry Schiavo’s
state is in no appreciable way different from those who are fully aware and functional in the world yet lacking a specific ability
– say to speak or walk. What Mr. Buchanan ought to do in his column is to present neurological evidence that her situation is
no different from other handicapped persons. That he does not do this should make you suspicious. What is he hiding here?
―Sniping‖ here is a slanter. Sniping implies that it has already been established that conservatives ―snipe‖ (whatever that
means) or are quick to mindlessly bite others. Such an innuendo requires support if we are to take it seriously.
―talking heads‖ – this implies that it has already been established that while these media sources (Buchanan does not tell us
who these people are) can talk at length about issues of the day, these media folks have little connection to reality or ―real life.‖
But nowhere does Buchanan offer evidence of this. (―Talking heads‖ is also ambiguous – which columnists is he speaking
about? Conservative? Liberal? Moderate? Religious?)
―pro-death‖ – this implies that it has already been established that experts who supported removing the feeding tube are anti-
life and pro-death in that they do not adequately, morally, support human life. But this is controversial and Buchanan should
certainly provide evidence here especially since those supporting removing the feeding tube claim that they are in fact pro-life.
―Seemed so desperately anxious‖ – this implies that those supporting the courts are doing so out of insecurity, irrational
paranoia, and uncertainty. But again, Buchanan offers no evidence and he ought to.
If you picked the terms, ―arrogant‖ and ―interfering‖ then you are certainly on the right track as these can be slanter terms.
However, does Ms. Ivins here give reasons as to why Republicans were arrogant and interfering? Perhaps, as she states that the
Republicans’ bill would prevent individuals from making their own life and death decisions in these cases while
simultaneously, these same Republicans vote to cut services which provide the monies to support people in Schiavo’s case.
What do you think?
2. Euphemisms and Dysphemisms
While it is true that many word-symbols represent somewhat fixedly the way of the world,25 it is a
mistake to conclude that if we are able to replace a symbol with its opposite meaning, we can change how
things are in the world. The mistake here is that the new words are not newly discovered natural signs but
newly invented words for the same old events.
Most often this occurs when we invent euphemisms. A euphemism is the use of a word in order to hide
unpleasant realities. For example to avoid dealing directly with the reality of death, we refer to death with
euphemisms like passed on, departed this life, went to her reward. The military distracts us from the ugly
truth that in modern warfare many innocent civilians including men, women, grandmothers, grandfathers,
children, and infants die in often unimaginably horrendous ways with the euphemism, collateral damage.
While this term does address the fact that sometimes these deaths are unintended (see the article in the last
section of this reader, On Iraq for a journalist's experience of civilian deaths in Iraq) it also conveniently
helps us to deny war's cruel inhumanity. This is, strictly speaking, a misuse of word-symbols because
when the military creates a euphemism like this one, the reality in no way changes for those soldiers and
civilians who directly experience such events. Daily we use another, more benign euphemism to refer to
that little room where we relieve ourselves. We call this room variously bathroom, water closet (W.C.),
powder room, and restroom. Perhaps in this case it's a good thing that we humans use such euphemisms.
What do you think? Do animals suffer more because they cannot deny reality in this way?
Wardrobe malfunction (used for exposure of Janet Jackson’s right breast)
Global Climate Change (used for ―Global warming‖)
Tall latte (used for a small latte)
Grande cappuccino (used for a medium cappuccino)
Exfiltration (used for ―military retreat,‖ the opposite of infiltration)
Revenue enhancement through user’s fees (used by Ronald Reagan for ―taxes‖)
Resource implications (used for ―costs‖)
The gaming industry (used for ―gambling‖)
Concentration camps (used for ―death camps‖ or ―extermination camps‖)
Turning tricks (used for a prostitute having sex for money with a ―John‖)
Strategic misrepresentations (used for ―lies‖)
Dysphemisms are names to make something sound worse than it really is. This is the opposite of a
euphemism. This is basically name-calling, and name-calling is not an acceptable substitute for solid
Death tax (used for ―inheritance tax‖ or ―estate tax‖)
Vehicle tax (used for ―vehicle registration fee‖)
Tax Increase (used for ―repealing Bush’s tax cuts‖)
If you ever get a chance, check out an etymology dictionary. These dictionaries present the historical development of
everyday words that we use. The web has free etymology dictionaries, such as www.wordorigins.org and even a free
etymology dictionary that you can download at http://ablemedia.com/ctcweb/showcase/roots.html
Pro-abortion (used for ―pro-choice‖)
Anti-choice (used for ―pro-life‖)
Regime (used for ―government‖)
Star Wars Program (Ted Kennedy’s mocking moniker for Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative)
3. Persuasive Definitions:
Persuasive definitions are not definitions – these are claims pretending to be a definition. Persuasive
definitions are custom made definitions that insert one’s bias and are intended to subtly manipulate the
reader to go along with the author’s line of reasoning on a controversial issue. In fact, if we accept as true
the rhetorical definition in question it’s almost impossible not to believe the implied, related claim. Thus,
rhetorical definitions are said to ―beg the question‖ or to be ―circular.‖ They assume in their definitions
what needs to be argued for independently
For example, the pro-life definition of abortion: ―Abortion is the murder of an unborn child.‖ This
definition is rhetorical or persuasive because it implies some claims that ought to be argued for
independently: that a fertilized two-celled human zygote has the same moral and spiritual status of
infants, children, or adults.
This claim is controversial. For example, the great majority of scientists don’t consider two-celled
zygotes to have any relevant similarities to infants, children, or adults and we ourselves don’t, on a
practical level, interact morally or spiritually with two-celled zygotes26 the way we do with infants,
children, or adults. Thus, such claims need to be argued for independently and not simply assumed as
true and ―built in‖ to the persuasive definition.
The first stage of a fertilized egg about the size of a period at the end of this sentence.
B. Argument Ghost Fallacies - “Now you see them, but you really don’t.”
Argument ghosts are statements or use of language that try to fool us into believing
that we are dealing with an argument when in fact no such argument has been given.
Fallacies While there may indeed be an argument intended by the author of such statements,
ahead! there are, in fact, no explicit premises given in support of a conclusion.
For most fallacies below, I've "translated" the fallacy into MC-P format.
1. Red Herring
If a person introduces a new issue or topic into a conversation (or argument) that distracts from the issue
at hand, the person who introduces the new issue is said to have introduced a red herring.
Example: Upon being asked by a reporter whether his office has made the country substantially safer
from terrorist attacks, Michael Chertoff (secretary of the Department of Homeland Security) said: ―I’m
pleased to say that the United Stats is the safest country in the world when it comes to terrorist attacks.
Certainly nobody can give an absolute, one hundred percent guarantee of safety, but you are certainly
safer there than in any other country of the world.” Chertoff avoided the issue raised by the reporter
(whether his agency had made the country safer) and instead discussed two different issues: whether the
U.S. is safer than all other countries and whether the U.S. is safest when it comes to terrorist attacks (this
may or may not have anything to do with the effectiveness of the Dept. of Homeland Security).
When the conclusion does not conceivably follow from the intended premise. Usually the topics covered
by the conclusion and intended premise fail to overlap.
A claim since B claim where B claim does not possibly offer support for A claim.
MC – A claim
P – B claim (where B claim does not conceivably offer support for A claim).
Example: You should vote for the Green Party candidate because I like ice cream cones.
3. Question Begging
When the conclusion is a restatement of the reason or premise for the conclusion or when an argument
assumes what it is trying to prove. This is also called circular reasoning. When question begging reasons
are offered for a conclusion, you are still left asking why you should accept those as reasons for the
conclusion when their truth requires that you've already accepted the conclusion.
FORM 1: A because A' - where A' is a restatement, a stylistic variant or explanation as alternate
description, of A.
MC – A claim
P – A’ (where A’ claim is a stylistic variant of A claim).
MC-P FORMb: Often this fallacy takes the form of: A because B because A'.
MC-P Form 2:
MC – A claim
P/SC – B claim
P – A’ (where A’ claim is a stylistic variant of A claim).
Under what conditions is this a fallacy? This argument is always bad because it is not even an
Examples: Form 1. I am happy because I am joyful.
Form 2. God exists because the Bible states that God exists since God is being.
(Of course there are many ways to construct arguments for the existence of God that avoid this fallacy.
Can you think of one?)
4. Straw Man (Person.)
A person misrepresents or distorts a statement or argument of another and then proceeds to argue against
the distorted version. You can think of this as a way in which one person fails to listen to another - but
actively fails to listen. I include it in this section because part of what occurs here is that one person thinks
they are responding with a counter-argument against their opponent’s argument but in fact they are
misrepresenting their opponent’s argument and thus, in a sense, talking about nothing.
In a straw man fallacy the following occurs:
a) Person 1 makes an argument to Person 2 whose conclusion Person 2 does not want to accept.
b) Person 2 distorts the argument of Person 1
c) Person 2 then argues against their newly distorted version of Person 1's argument thus concluding that
she or he does not have to accept the conclusion of Person 1.
Straw Man is one of the most common fallacies. It is endemic in public debates on politics, ethics, and
religion. "Straw man" is one of the best-named fallacies, because it is both memorable and vividly
illustrates the nature of the fallacy. Imagine a fight in which one of the combatants sets up a man of straw,
attacks it, and then proclaims victory. All the while, the real opponent stands by untouched.
As the "straw man" metaphor suggests, the counterfeit position attacked in a Straw Man argument is
typically weaker than the opponent's actual position, just as a straw man is easier to defeat than a flesh-
and-blood one. Of course, this is no accident, but is part of what makes the fallacy tempting to commit,
especially to a desperate debater who is losing an argument. Thus, it is no surprise that arguers seldom
misstate their opponent's position so as to make it stronger. Of course, if there is an obvious way to make
a debating opponent's position stronger, then one is up against an incompetent debater. Debaters usually
try to take the strongest position they can, so that any change is likely to be for the worse. However,
attacking a logically stronger position than that taken by the opponent is a sign of strength, whereas
attacking a straw man is a sign of weakness.
A common straw man is sometimes called the ―extreme man.‖ Extreme positions are more difficult to
defend because they make fewer allowances for exceptions, or counter-examples. Consider the statement
* All P’s are Q’s. * Most P’s are Q’s.
* Many P’s are Q’s. * Some P’s are Q’s.
* Some P’s are not Q’s. * Many P’s are not Q’s.
* Most P’s are not Q’s. * No P’s are Q’s.
The extremes are "All P’s are Q’s" and "No P’s are Q’s". These are easiest to refute, since all it takes is a
single counterexample to refute a universal statement. Moreover, the world being such as it is, unless A
and B are connected definitionally, such propositions are usually false. The other propositions are
progressively harder to refute until you get to the middle two: "Some P’s are Q’s" and "Some P’s are not
Q’s." To refute these requires one to prove the extremes: "No P’s are Q’s" or "All P’s are Q’s,"
respectively. So, extremists are those who take positions starting with "all" or "no". For instance, the
extremists in the abortion debate are those who argue that no abortions are permissible, or that all
abortions are permissible.
Therefore, Straw Man arguments often attack a political party or movement at its extremes, where it is
weakest. For example, it is a straw man to portray the anti-abortion position as the claim that all abortions,
with no exceptions, are wrong. It is also a straw man to attack abortion rights as the position that no
abortions should ever be restricted, bar none. Such straw men are often part of the process of
"demonization," and we might well call the sub fallacy of the straw man that attacks an extreme position
instead of the more moderate position held by the opponent, the "Straw Demon".
Note: Strawman arguments often are caused when person #2 addresses a different issue than the issue
addressed by person #1... a form as well of red-herring...
EXAMPLE: Person #1: "It is sometimes necessary to tell a lie because you don’t want to hurt other’s
feelings especially when what you are lying is something trivial like how much you liked their cooking."
Person #2: "But if you always lie, then you will never be trusted. So, I disagree with you."
5. Ad Hominem
One person makes a statement or presents an argument; a second person disagrees, but rather than argue
against the position in question, makes a personal comment about the individual who is presenting the
position. The second person commits the fallacy. These irrelevant attacks are a form of red herring in
that a new, unrelated topic is introduced in order to distract the opponent or audience from the issue at
hand. Ad Hominem is one of the most used and abused fallacies, and both justified and unjustified
accusations of Ad Hominem abound in any debate.
A debater commits the Ad Hominem fallacy when he introduces irrelevant personal premises about his
opponent. Such red herrings (when a person responds to an argument by introducing irrelevant
distractions) may successfully distract the opponent or the audience from the topic of the debate.
Ad Hominem is one of the most used and abused fallacies, and both justified and unjustified accusations
of Ad Hominem abound in any debate.
* Abusive: An Abusive Ad Hominem occurs when an attack on the character or other irrelevant personal
qualities of the opposition --such as appearance-- is offered as evidence against her position. Such attacks
are often effective distractions ("red herrings"), because the opponent feels it necessary to defend herself,
thus being distracted from the topic of the debate.
* Circumstantial: A Circumstantial Ad Hominem is one in which some irrelevant personal circumstance
surrounding the opponent is offered as evidence against the opponent's position.
Person 1 provides an argument or implied argument: A because B, C, etc.
Person 2 says: A is "wrong" because Person 1 is flawed (when Person 1's flaws are irrelevant to the
reasons given by person 1 for conclusion A).
MC – Person A’s claim (or argument) is wrong or bad.
P1 – The individual person, Mr. A, is flawed, biased, or is making statements in X context
Evaluation: Under what conditions is this a fallacy? This argument is always bad because the given P
bears no relation to the MC. The only exception would be if what makes the argument good or bad is the
nature of the person making the argument.
Other versions or "cousins" of the Ad Hominem: Circumstantial, Inconsistency, Poisoning the Well,
Genetic (see below)
EXAMPLES: 1) "I think De Lay's argument for a small business tax cut is full of fallacies. After all, he's
2) One person says: "I think the legal drinking age should be lowered to 18. If you are old enough to serve
in the armed forces then you are old enough to drink." A second person responds, "You just believe that
because you are only 18."
+6. Genetic Fallacy
MC - Do not believe X.
P1 - X claim (or argument) began or arose under conditions Y (often these conditions are the type
of group that created claim X).
P2 - Y historical conditions/group is problematic/suspect/awful.
Link P1, P2
Evaluation: While it may indeed be true that the Y history, conditions, group is suspect or awful, this is
irrelevant to whether or not we should reject claim X. Instead one ought to give reasons relevant to X
when trying to argue that we should reject X.
7. Demagoguery & Argument from Outrage Fallacy
"Wars are not made by common folk, scratching for livings in the heat of the day. They are made
by demagogues infesting palaces." – H.L. Menken, 1939
When a person uses inflammatory words or tone of voice followed by a ―conclusion‖ where no argument
supporting this ―conclusion‖ has actually been offered, this person commits the ―argument from
outrage‖ fallacy (sometimes also called scapegoating). If they simplistically invoke popular prejudices,
fears, and flag waving (nationalism), without giving a plausible argument in support of their
―conclusions,‖ then they also commit the fallacy of demagoguery.27
MC-P Form of Argument from Outrage
MC - Believe/Do (or do not believe/do) X.
P1 - I am really, really outraged, angry, @#$%-off about (insert inflammatory words here) X!!!
Evaluation: this is a fallacy because although P1 is indeed true (it's true that the demagogue is very, very
angry), the demagogue’s anger is not relevant to the MC if the demagogue is implying or claiming that
she or he is making an argument. So really this is a form of pseudo-reasoning.
Talk show hosts, especially right-wing talk show hosts or columnists (for example, Ann Coulter, Rush
Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, and Michael Savage) appear to commit the fallacy of ―argument from outrage‖
and engage in demagoguery much more so than left-wing media hosts. What do you think? In your
experience is this true? Can you identify some left-wing media demagogues as well? If it’s true that right-
wing media hosts are much more likely than left-wing hosts to be demagogues, does this necessarily
impugn the principles of conservatism or might many conservatives object to much of right-wing media
talk? Are there right-wing hosts who refuse to engage in demagoguery or argument from outrage?
Demagogy (from Greek, "people", and agogos, "leading") refers to a political strategy for obtaining and gaining political
power by appealing to the popular prejudices, fears, and expectations of the public — typically via impassioned rhetoric and
propaganda, and often using nationalistic or populist themes (Wikipedia). Other common fallacies used by demagogues are:
half-truths, false authority, false dilemma, demonization/scapegoating, strawman, loaded question, ad Hominem, and red
Here’s an example of argument from outrage by Rush Limbaugh:
“The left is just a drooling mob and it’s ugly out there. The left wing and their attack on DeLay is
not new. As a matter of fact, TomDeLay was the first demon of choice of the left. But it went
nowhere. No traction, no fund-raising, no focus group numbers, so the gangbangers on the left
went after Cheney. Remember that?28
While we have a right to be angry about things we should not confuse being angry with giving an
argument. Rush might be correct here that the ―left wing‖ went after him for no good reason (presumably
though Rush would be ok with going after DeLay if DeLay were violating ethical standards as a
congressman) but Rush offers no evidence except that Rush is really angry. You should also be able to
easily identify other slanters here too: ―drooling mob,‖ ―demon of choice,‖ ―gangbangers.‖
8. Scare tactics/Argument by force
- I will treat both these as synonymous in our class.
MC - Believe/Do (or do not believe/do) X
P1 - If you believe/do (or do not believe/do) X, then Y will result.
P2 - Y will be a horrible, awful consequence.
Link P1, P2
Evaluation: Simply pointing out the dangerous consequences of an intended action is not scare tactics.
Overemphasizing negative consequences that bear little relevance to the action in question (or are clearly
unrealistic) would count as scare tactic. So in the above diagram, it is a fallacy because P1 and P2 either
are false or... even if true, do not support the MC due to irrelevancy between the sample (the two Ps) and
target. The implied P, P(I) makes clear as well that this is a fallacy. Of course this P(I) is what is being
covered over or ignored by the author of the fallacy...
9. Reports are not Arguments
Often students mistake reports for arguments. A report is simply a list of claims and thus
is not an argument since none of the claims serve as a main conclusion. Examples of
reports are news reports that we find on TV or on the front page of a newspaper. While
reports may include a report of an argument, by themselves, news reports are not
arguments since they do not seek to persuade us to believe a main conclusion.
Example: “The average Internet user in the United States spends three hours a day online, with much of
that time devoted to work and more than half of it to communications, according to a survey conducted by
a group of political scientists. The survey found that use of the Internet has displaced television watching
and a range of other activities. Internet users watch television for one hour and 42 minutes a day,
compared with the national average of two hours, said Norman H. Nie, director of the Stanford Institute
Moore and Parker, Critical reasoning, 8th edition, page 146.
for the Quantitative Study of Society, a research group that has been exploring the social consequences of
the Internet.” (New York Times, 12-30-04)
Clearly there are many claims in this news report – seven claims to be exact (can you identify them?)29 –
but the author of this report is not trying to persuade you of anything. The author simply is providing a
list of related claims for you to consider – or not. While there are obviously many implications that
follow from these claims, the author is not trying to get you to believe one or more of these implications.
C. Recap: Concepts you need to know from chapter four
1. Definition of rhetoric
2. Definition of slanters
3. Proof surrogates
8. Persuasive Definitions
9. Red Herring Fallacy
10. Non-Sequitur Fallacy
11. Question Begging Fallacy
12. Strawman Fallacy
13. Ad Hominem Fallacy
14. Genetic Fallacy
15. Demagoguery/Argument from Outrage Fallacy
16. Scare tactics
The seven claims are: 1 - The average Internet user in the United States spends three hours a day online; 2 - Much of that
time (is) devoted to work; 3 - More than half of it (is devoted) to communications; 4 - The survey found that use of the Internet
has displaced television watching; 5 - (The use of the internet) has displaced a range of other activities; 6 - Internet users
watch television for one hour and 42 minutes a day; 7 – The national average (of TV watching is) two hours (a day).
V. DEDUCTIVE ARGUMENTS (1) – SENTENTIAL
Above in chapter three we defined deductive arguments as arguments whose premises, if true, necessarily,
―100%‖ guarantee their conclusion. If you like absolute certainty and complete clarity, you’ll love this
section – with deductive arguemtns there are clear answers – either valid or invalid (so there will always
be either a ―right‖ or ―wrong‖ answer to the excerises at the end of this section). The problem (or
challenge) though is that most of the reasoning or argumentation that we deal with in everyday practical
lives cannot be reduced to valid forms.
In this chapter and next we are going to go into more detail and provide an introductory overview of
deductive arguments. The emphasis in this chapter will be on what is required to make an argument valid.
An argument is valid when premises assumed to be true guarantee or entail their conclusion. Since the
notion of validity already assumes that the given premises are indeed true, the emphasis here is on the
structure – or form – of arguments instead of the content of the claims within the argument. Learning
the structure or forms of valid/deductive arguments helps one to: 1) determine what is meaningful in a
given claim and 2) to determine what is required for one to have a sound argument.
A. Sentential Logic: Translation of Ordinary Language Sentences into Symbols
In this section I am going to discuss how to translate ordinary, everyday language into symbolic form,
called "standard form" or ―sentential form." Translating ―ordinary language‖ or the various ways in which
we speak informally and formally into symbols is the first step in determining whether or not an argument
is valid. Translation into symbols also helps us to separate meaningful from non-meaningful claims and
makes it much easier to evaluate an argument for validity or invalidity.
To see more clearly how translation of claims into letter-symbols emphasizes form over content, take a
look at the two arguments below:
Argument #1 –
Well, you know Jim either Proposition 1B, the Highway Safety, Traffic Reduction, Air Quality,
Port Security Bond Act of 2006 is going to be approved by voters this November or they will reject
it! Now, I’m absolutely certain that not enough voters will reject it, so it will definitely pass!
Argument #2 –
A new race of space aliens in our solar system has been detected living one of Jupiter’s moons –
either Europa or Io. Now, since it is impossible for any alien life form to survive on Io, the aliens
must be living on Europa!
While the content of each argument is quite different – argument #1 discusses a bond measure on the
2006 November ballot and argument #2 discusses space aliens, their forms are identical and valid. This
can easily be seen by translating the everyday language sentences (called ordinary language by
philosophers) into symbolic notation.
1. Definition of deductive symbols
Traditionally philosophers use the letters P, Q, R, S, etc. to each represent individual claims (but I’ll be
using the letters A, B, C, etc) and the symbols •, v, , ~ to represent connective words that tell us the
logical relationship between the individual claims. In the box below I have provided a key for these
Symbol Name of Symbol Ordinary Words Example Symbolization
MC Main conclusion ―Thus‖, ―therefore‖ Thus, it is a pen. MC - A
P1, P2, etc. Premise ―since,‖ ―because‖ Since it is a pen… P1 - A
• Conjunction ―and‖, ―but‖, ―yet‖ It is a pen and it has ink. A•B
v Disjunction ―or‖, ―either…or‖ It is a pen or it has ink. AvB
Conditional ―if… then… ― If it is a pen then it has ink. A B
~ Negation ―not‖ It is not a pen. ~A
↔ Equivalence ―if and only if‖ ―It is not not a pen‖ is ~~A ↔A
equivalent to ―It is a pen.‖
A, B, etc. Claims that are complete sentences or A = ―It is a pen.‖ A
Conditionals - Used above in both the symbolization of full sentence claims, conditional claims are
combination of two asserted or unasserted30 claims, A and B, into a single compound claim with the form
―If A, then B.‖ (A here is the antecedent and B the consequent). In English this might read, If I study the
critical reasoning textbook, then I may earn an A in the class.
Usually it’s preferable to avoid using unassertions as claims (such as, ―I might go to the store‖) since we
cannot evaluate the truth of such claims unless we know which conditions might make this possibility a
reality. With conditionals however, we are given the conditions that would make a possibility an
actuality. ―If I’m hungry then I’ll go to the store.‖ The neat thing about conditionals is that they allow us
to express a relation between claims where the truth of one claim is dependent upon the truth of another
Asserted claims or assertions are claims whose truth we are committed to (even if we are wrong about what we are
saying.). An example is: ―The sun is hot‖ or ―The moon is made of cheese.‖ In both cases the speaker is committed to believing
the truth of what she or he is saying. Unasserted claims or unassertions are claims that are not commited to the truth of the
claim. An example would be, ―The sun might be made of hot gases.‖ In general we try to avoid unassertions when constructing
Although we are not committed to the truth of the antecedent or consequent we are committed to the logical relation between
the two. We are committed to the truth that if one does occur then the other will occur as well. Since we ought not to use
unassertions as premises, conditionals are a nice way to introduce unassertions into an argument. Of course conditionals may
also be combinations of asserted claims as well.
Negation - The ―not‖ symbol, ~ , indicate the denial or negation of the given claim. Thus the negation of
―It is raining‖ would be, ―It is not raining.‖ Two ―not symbols‖, a double negative, or a not-not, are
equivalent to the affirmation of the claim. For instance ―It is not the case that it is not raining‖ says the
same thing as ―It is raining.‖
2. Rules for Symbolizing Sentence-claims
1. Assign a letter from those I have provided after each example for each simple sentence claim in the
argument. Be sure that each simple sentence claim that you identify does not contain any logical
connectives (―and‖, ―or‖, ―if…then‖). You should write out each simple sentence and equate it to a letter
like this: A = Critical reasoning is easy. B = Modesto has some pretty good jazz.
2. Now, below your list of simple sentence claims, see if you can diagram the argument using only
symbols. Place the conclusion next to the MC and beneath it the premises. Be sure to follow the argument
as given and to include logical connector symbols.
3. In order to determine whether the argument conforms to an invalid or valid form (see above) you may
need to change the negation values (~) of a claim. You may change the value of one A into the opposite
value provided you change the value of all the A’s. You may leave the B’s alone. Or you may change the
value of one B into the opposite value providing you change the value of every B. You may leave the A’s
MC – B MC - B
P1 - ~ A B becomes… P1 - A B
P2 - ~A P2 - A
Now, applying these rules, let’s symbolize arguments #1 and #2 above. For argument #1 we have:
A = Proposition 1B, the Highway Safety, Traffic Reduction, Air Quality, Port Security Bond Act of
2006 is going to be approved by voters this November
B = Voters will reject Proposition 1B, the Highway Safety, Traffic Reduction, Air Quality, Port
Security Bond Act of 2006 this November.
That’s it! There are only two claims used in this entire argument which we have symbolized as A and B.
Now, while there are only two claims here they are combined, using our logical operators or connectors in
different ways as we’ll see below. But before symbolizing the argument, you should note that we ignored
or rephrased some phrases such as ―Well, you know Jim‖ and ―they will reject it! Now, I’m absolutely
certain that not enough voters will reject it, so it will definitely pass!‖ The phrase, ―Well you know Jim‖
adds nothing to the claims and is really a stylistic usage of language meant to tell the reader that a claim
will be introduced. In critical reasoning we generally ignore and omit such stylistic usages of language
and instead focus only on the claims being presented. It’s a bit redundant really to include in our claims
expressions that the claim is being presented to us! For instance if I say to you, ―OK Silvia, now I’m
really going to say to you what I think which is really, truly, absolutely that in my mind I find that,
according to me, you are often late,‖ we would simply restate or paraphrase this as, ―Silvia is often late.‖
Makes sense, right?
In the example of, “…they will reject it!‖ I rephrased this to make it crystal clear as above for ―B‖. This
should be obvious to you that ―they will reject it!‖ carries exactly the same meaning as ―B‖ above. You
will be expected to make these sorts of ―translations.‖ Doing so serves as a check to ensure that you
understand the claims and of course makes it crystal clear what is being said as well as allowing us to test
for validity. So, if two differently worded sentences express the same meaning, you should, when
translating into symbols, express the two differently worded sentences as identically worded claims.
Now let’s express Argument #1 in symbolic argument form. We will use the letters ―MC‖32 to indicate
the claim that is the main conclusion and P1 and P2 to indicate the first and second premises
respectively. We now have:
MC – A
P1 - A v B
P2 - ~B
Now let’s do the same with argument #2 above:
Argument #2 – First we identify the claims and assign them to a symbol:
A = A new race of space aliens in our solar system has been detected living on Europa, one of Jupiter’s
B = A new race of space aliens in our solar system has been detected living on Io, one of Jupiter’s moons.
Then, using the logical operators, and closely following the written argument, we
MC – A
P1 - A v B
P2 - ~B
Although the content of argument 1 and 2 are entirely different (and the truth-value of the claims as well),
the form of the arguments is identical and this case both are valid because both have the form of
disjunctive syllogism (see below). Of course if an argument is valid, it’s not necessarily a sound or good
argument. Right? If you do not see how this is so, you should review the prior section of this reader.
Finally, with longer sentences with multiple claims, for instance, A v B • C , we use parentheses to
resolve any doubts regarding which claims are being connected. For instance, does this mean A or… B
and C or does this mean A or C and… C. We can eliminate such syntactical ambiguity by writing, (A v B)
and C which is quite different from the other possibility, A v (B and C).
B. Valid Argument Forms
Now we get to the fun part. Symbolization allows us to see whether or not an argument is valid or
invalid.33 Here I will present to you five of the most common valid forms and two of the most common
Traditionally the conclusion is indicated by a symbol with three dots in a triangle, . . and is placed beneath the supporting
premises not at the top as I have done. Since we will be diagramming using the ―MC-P method‖ in this class, I am using the
MC-P method here as well.
Of course your goal as a critical thinker should not simply be to construct valid arguments but good arguments.
invalid forms. If you are given a simple enough argument all you need to do is to symbolize the argument
and then see which of the forms below it matches. If you are given a more lengthy, complex argument
then you will need to do more work, for example, assigning a complex sentence claim of multiple letters
and connectors a single letter as I did below in example two of Modus Ponens.
For each of the common valid and invalid forms I provide the name (sometimes in latin), the form written
in ordinary language, the form written symbolically, and an example.
1. Modus Ponens (MP)
Form in ordinary language Symbolic form
MC – B MC - B
P1 - If A, then B P1 – A B
P2 – A P2 - A
MC – July was a bit hot in Modesto.
P1 – If the temperature is near 110 degrees for 13 days in Modesto then it’s a bit hot.
P2 – This July the temperature was near 110 degrees for 13 days in Modesto.
MC - Mayan and Continental philosophy are both rationally based.
P1 – If, Guatemala is north of El Salvador or France is west of Germany, then Mayan and
Continental philosophy are both rationally based.
P2 - Guatemala is north of El Salvador or France is west of Germany.
To see why this is still Modus Ponens, let’s translate into symbolic notation:
G = Guatemala is north of El Salvador
F = France is west of Germany
M = Mayan philosophy is rationally based.
C = Continental philosophy is rationally based.
MC – M • C
P1 – (G v F) (M • C)
P2 – G v F
This is still Modus Ponens because we can substitute ―M • C‖ for ―B‖ and ―G v F‖ for ―A‖ in the form
above. The components (A, B) can also be negative sentences. For example:
MC - ~ B
P1 - ~A ~B
P2 - ~A
Note: ~(A Q) is NOT EQUIVALENT to: ~A ~Q
2. Modus Tollens (MT)
Form in ordinary language Symbolic forms Variation by distribution of ~
MC – ~A MC - ~A MC - A
P1 - If A, then B P1 – A B P1 - ~A ~B
P2 – ~B P2 - ~B P2 - B
MC – This July the temperature was not close to 110 degrees for 13 days in Modesto.
P1 – If the temperature is near 110 degrees for 13 days in Modesto then it’s a hot month in
P2 – It was not a hot month in Modesto.
3. Hypothetical Syllogism (HS)
Form in ordinary language Symbolic forms
MC – If A then C MC – A C
P1 - If A, then B P1 – A B
P2 – If B, then C P2 - B C
MC – If I eats lots of refined sugar and junk food, then I won’t be able to focus on my critical reasoning
P1 – If I eat lots of refined sugar and junk food, then I’ll get sick.
P2 – If I get sick, then I won’t be able to focus on my critical reasoning class.
4. Disjunctive Syllogism (DS)
Form in ordinary language Symbolic forms
MC – Therefore B MC – B
P1 - Either A or B P1 – A v B
P2 – Not A P2 - ~A
MC – I get sick.
P1 – Either I eat healthy food or I get sick.
P2 – I don’t eat healthy food.
5. Constructive Dilemma (CD)
Form in ordinary language Symbolic forms
MC – Therefore C or D MC – C v D
P1 - Either A or B P1 – A v B
P2 – If A, then C P2 – A C
P3 – If B, then D P3 – B D
MC – Either hate radio personalities should apologize or get off the air.
P1 – Hate radio personalities knowingly substitute hatred for facts or are grossly immature.
P2 – If hate radio personalities knowingly substitute hatred for facts then they should apologize.
P3 – If hate radio personalities are grossly immature then they should get off the air.
C. Equivalent Forms
Finally it’s important to recognize that differently worded sentences may express ideas with equivalent
truth values. For instance, the sentence, ―philosophy professors can dance salsa‖ is equivalent to the truth
value of the sentence, ―philosophy professors cannot not dance salsa.‖ Equivalence means that neither
sentence can be true unless its equivalent sentence is also true. If two claims are equivalent we can then
make a valid inference from one claim to the other. Here are five common equivalent forms. Note that the
first two forms, double negation and commutation would count tautologies or circular reasoning/begging
the question fallacy if expressed in a simple argument as below.
1) Double Negation 2) Commutation
MC-P form Symbolic forms MC-P form Symbolic forms
MC – A A ↔ ~~A MC – A and B (A • B) ↔ (B • A)
P1 - ~~A P1 – A
P2 – B
3) Contraposition 4) Implication
MC-P form Symbolic forms MC-P form Symbolic forms
MC – If A then B (A B) ↔ (~B ~A) MC – A or B A v B ↔ (~A B)
P1 – If ~B, then ~A P1 – If ~A then B
5) De Morgan’s Rules (2)
MC-P form Symbolic forms
MC – Not A and B ~(A • B) ↔ (~A v ~B)
P1 - Either ~A or ~B
MC – Not A or B ~(A v B) ↔ (~A • ~B)
P1 - ~A and ~B
These rules can be used, along with the valid forms, to try and deduce a conclusion from the given
premises. If time permits I will give you a handout with examples.
At the end of this chapter on deductive arguments I will list some of the different ways we use everyday
language to express conditionals.
D. Stylistic Variants and Contradictories of Conditionals & Disjunctions
1. Stylistic Variants of Conditionals
You should keep in mind that there are many ways of writing a conditional. For example, the conditional,
If you don’t run, then you’ll miss your plane is the same as 1) Either you run or you’ll miss your plane
AND 2) You’ll miss your plane unless you run. 1 and 2 are stylistic variants of the first conditional.
Below is a list of the different stylistic variants of the conditional form, ―IF (antecedent), THEN
When diagramming you should translate or paraphrase stylistic variants of conditionals into the ―If A then
B‖ format. This will make it easier to compare arguments that you diagram with the valid and invalid
sentential structures above.
Stylistic variants of conditionals. The below ordinary language expressions mean the same thing as: “If
A (antecedent), then B (consequent)” A = antecedent claim; B = consequent claim
Stylistic variants Example
1. If A then B. If I turn off the TV then I’ll be happier.
2. A only if B I turn off the TV only if I’ll be happier.
3. When A, B. When I turn off the TV, I’ll be happier.
4. A is a sufficient condition for B Turning off the TV is a sufficient condition for me being
5. A necessarily implies B I turn off the TV necessarily implies that I’ll be happier.
6. A necessarily means that B I turn off the TV necessarily means that I’ll be happier.
7. B, if A I’ll be happier if I turn off the TV
8. B provided that A I’ll be happier provided that I turn off the TV
9. B, when A I’ll be happier when I turn off the TV
10. B is a necessary condition for A My becoming happier is a necessary condition for
turning off the TV.
11. B is implied by A My becoming happier is implied by turning off the TV.
12. Also… A unless B means the same thing as: If not-B then A.
Or… I’ll turn off the TV unless I’ll be happier = If I’m not happier then I’ll turn off the TV.
Given the antecedent, ―I have a toothache.‖ And the antecedent, ―I will go to the dentist,‖ write out the
eleven stylistic variants above for the conditional, ―If I have a toothache then I will go to the dentist.‖ See
below34 for the answers.
2. Contradictories of Conditionals
Contradictories of Conditionals - The contradictory of a conditional, ―If A, then B‖ claim is, ―A,
but not B.‖ So be sure to note that a contradictory of a conditional is not another conditional.
If A, then B If Beryl studies two hours every day, then she will pass critical reasoning.
A, but not B Beryl studies two hours every day but she does not pass critical reasoning.
3. Contradictories of Disjunctions
Contradictories of Disjunctions - The contradictory of a disjunction, ―A or B‖ claim is, ―not-A
and not-B‖ or ―Neither A nor B.‖
A or B Tuan will go to class or he will be depressed.
Not-A and Not-B Tuan will not go to class and he will not be depressed.
Neither A nor B Neither Tuan will not go to class nor will he not be depressed.
1. If I have a toothache, I will go to the dentist. 2. I have a toothache ONLY IF I will go to the dentist.
3. WHEN I have a toothache, I will go to the dentist. 4. I have a toothache IS A SUFFICIENT CONDITION34 FOR me
going to the dentist. 5. I have a toothache IMPLIES I will go to the dentist. 6. I have a toothache MEANS THAT I will go
to the dentist. 7. I will go to the dentist, IF I have a toothache. 8. I will go to the dentist PROVIDED I have a toothache. 9. I
will go to the dentist, WHEN I have a toothache. 10. I will go to the dentist IS A NECESSARY CONDITION FOR I have a
toothache. 11. I will go to the dentist IS IMPLIED BY I have a toothache.
E. Danger: Invalid deductive forms
Two invalid deductive forms, Affirming the Consequent and Denying the Antecedent are
listed below, followed by the disjunctive and inconsistency fallacies.
1. Affirming the Consequent fallacy
Form in ordinary language Symbolic forms Example
MC – A MC – A Thus she married him.
P1 - If A then B P1 – A B If Yolanda married Boris, then she must have loved him.
P2 – B P2 - B She must have loved him
2. Denying the Antecedent fallacy
Form in ordinary language Symbolic forms Example
MC – ~B MC – ~B Thus she married him.
P1 - If A, then B P1 – A B If Yolanda had any sense, then she wouldn’t have married Boris.
P2 – ~A P2 - ~A Yolanda had no sense.
3. Either/Or (Also Called "Disjunctive Syllogism" Fallacy)
Form in ordinary language Symbolic forms
MC – Therefore A MC – A
P1 - Either A or B P1 – A v B
P2 – Not A P2 - ~A
P3 – A third option, C exists
Under what conditions is this a fallacy? This is a bad argument or fallacy if the first premise, A or B, are
contrary claims due to the fact that another alternative, say C, does in fact exist. In this case we are given
insufficient evidence to believe the conclusion, B.
Example: Either you're for us or against us. You're obviously not for us. Therefore, you're against us. This is an either/or
fallacy because another option exists – one can be against U.S. policies but supportive of American values.
When an argument is based on the assumption that there are just two realistic alternatives, one of which is
so bad (or false) that the other must be chosen EVEN THOUGH other alternatives exist.
Often the Either/Or fallacy is committed when one confuses contrary with contradictory claims. If one
has two contradictory premises, then only ONE can be true and the other must be false. Also, both
CANNOT be false: with contraries while both cannot be true, both can be false.
Example: Let’s say that it's hot today = A and it's not hot today = B. Can both be true here at the same
time? No. Can both be false at the same time? No. Thus these claims are contradictory and if someone
says it’s either hot or not hot then they do not commit the either/or fallacy because there are no other
But, if one has two contrary propositions, while both cannot be true, both CAN also be false.
Example: It’s not hot today = A and it's cold today = B. Can both be true here at the same time? No. Can
both be false at the same time? Yes. It could be warm. Thus these are contraries and if someone says that
it’s either going to be hot or cold with no other options then they do indeed commit the either/or fallacy
because a third alternative exists: it will be warm.
One common version of the Either/Or fallacy is the ―Perfectionistic fallacy.‖ In the perfectionistic
fallacy the options A and B are either doing something perfect or not doing it at all yet in the given
situation it’s impossible to be perfect thus… nothing at all is done. However, another option is available –
to do something ―pretty well‖ instead of perfectly. Hence the fallacy.
F. Recap: Concepts you need to know from chapter five
1. How to translate sentence-claims
2. Symbols used in translation
7. Modus Ponens
8. Modus Tollens
9. Hypothetical Syllogism
10. Disjunctive Syllogism
11. Constructive Dilemma
12. Stylistic variants of conditionals
13. Affirming the Consequent Fallacy
14. Denying the Antecedent Fallacy
15. Either/Or Fallacy
VI. DEDUCTIVE ARGUMENTS (2) - VENN DIAGRAMS
AND CATEGORICAL REASONING
While the previous section examined valid (and invalid) arguments based upon whole-sentence premise
claims, categorical reasoning focuses on the subject and predicate terms within the premise claims.
Categorical claims are claims that relate a subject category to a predicate category. A category or class is
a group of properties or things. For instance nouns and noun phrases (adjectives attached to nouns) are
categories. What sorts of terms35 are used to describe categories or groups of things? What sorts of terms
are conceptually abstract such that the term stands for a group of specific things? Birds, computers, red
dogs, speakers, DVD, bad driver, charitable people are examples of terms that name categories.
When it comes to categorical claims the interesting thing is that one part of the sentence, say the subject,
tells us that everything in the group mentioned in the subject term is contained in the group or category
mentioned in the predicate term. Here’s an example:
―All Modestans are hardworking people‖ says that whatever is included in the term ―Modestans‖ is also
included in the term – or category – ―hardworking people.‖ ―Some birds are blue jays‖ states that some of
the members of the category ―birds‖ also belong to the category ―blue jays.‖ ―Fred is a blue jay‖ says that
the individual, Fred, belongs to the group or category, ―blue jays.‖
Categorical claims can also say what does not belong to a category or class. For instance, ―No Modesto
Junior College students are critical reasoning students‖ says that the every member of the group or
category, ―MJC students‖ is excluded and cannot belong to the group or category, ―critical reasoning
students.‖ But, as should be obvious by now, this negative categorical claim is false.
A. Four Standard-form Categorical Claims – A, E, I, O
Generally there are four types of ―standard-form‖ categorical claims. These are:
A claims: All (insert subject noun-term here) are (insert predicate noun term here). (an affirmative
Example: All Modestans are Californians.
E claims: No (insert subject noun-term here) are (insert predicate noun term here). (a negative claim)
Example: No Modestans are Riponians.
I claims: Some (insert subject noun-term here) are (insert predicate noun term here).
Example: Some Modestans are MJC students. (an affirmative claim)
O claims: Some (insert subject noun-term here) are not (insert predicate noun term here). (a negative
Example: Some Modestans are not high school students.
Philosophers use the word, ―term‖ instead of ―word‖ here because sometimes the meaning of a category is conveyed by more
than one word. In such cases the compound word that designates a category still counts as a single term – as do individual
noun-words. For example, red dog is a single term because it represents a single category. Thus term is more accurate than
REPLACEMENT PAGES FOR PAGES 59 TO 61 IN YOUR READER
The noun phrases that go in the subject area are called subject terms and the noun phrases that go in the
predicate area are called (not surprisingly), predicate terms. Thus in these examples above using one of
the four standard-forms, ―Modestans‖ is the subject term and Riponians, MJC students, and high school
students are predicate terms respectively. Remember though: you may only use nouns or noun phrases.
Thus ―All Cereans are beautiful‖ is not a categorical claim because ―beautiful‖ is not a noun phrase. To
test this try reversing the terms: ―All Beautiful are Cereans.‖ It doesn’t make sense, right? But… you can
use the adjective ―beautiful‖ by converting it into a noun-phrase, say, ―beautiful people.‖ Now it works!
―All Modestans are beautiful people.‖ And if we reverse this, ―All beautiful people are Cereans.‖ This
does make sense (even if it’s not true. )
B. Venn Diagrams
Next, we can combine categorical claims to form arguments – and then test the validity of these
arguments. Remember, a valid argument is an argument where it’s impossible for the conclusion to be
false if the premise(s) is true. The easiest way to test for validity or invalidity of categorical arguments is
to use Venn diagrams.36 Each of the four standard-forms above can be expressed with a Venn diagram:
A-claim: E-claim: I-claim: O-claim:
All A are B No A are B Some A are B Some A are not B
A B A B A X B A X B
The rules for constructing Venn diagrams are fairly simple.
First let’s explain the circles, shaded portions, blank areas and X’s:
1. Circles: each circle represents an entire category-term (subject and predicate terms) – for instance ―A‖
or ―B‖ or ―radios‖ or ―boomboxes‖ (see above).
2. Shaded areas: The shaded areas represent areas of the circles – or categories – that are empty of all
members of that category or term (see above).
3. Blank areas: The areas that are blank (white in this case) are areas that the claim says nothing about
directly – it may contain members of that category or may not. (see above).
4. X’s: An X is placed in those areas where there is at least one member of that category. Thus the word
―some‖ means ―at least one.‖37 (see above).
Now we are ready to construct our Venn diagrams from the categorical premises
Venn diagrams were devised by John Venn (1824 – 1923), a distinguished British church minister and theologian. Mr. Venn
switched his interest from theology to logic after reading logicians as De Morgan and J.S. Mill.
This can be confusing as usually we think of the word ―some‖ as meaning ―more than one.‖ With Venn diagrams treat
―some‖ as equivalent to ―at least one.‖
1. First decide how many circles you will need. You will need one circle per categorical term. So if two
different terms then two circles. If three different terms, then three circles (make sure that all three circles
overlap in the center (see below).
2. Now draw your circles and be sure that they overlap. Don’t forget to label your circles!
3. Now choose one of your premises and ―draw‖ (shade, leave blank, place an X) the relationship
between the subject and predicate term of the premise that you chose inside the circles. Start by reading
the categorical-claim carefully and determine whether you need to shade the overlapped section, the
entire circle(s), the portion of the circle(s) outside of the overlapped section, or whether no shading is
called for. Shade any area that is excluded by the subject-term. In other words, if a part of a circle
clearly contains no members of that category or class then shade it in. By shading you are stating that it is
logically impossible for any members of that category-term (whether subject or predicate terms) to exist
in the shaded area.
4. If more than one premise, which premise should you draw first? Always start your Venn diagrams with
universal ―All claims‖ (A-claims) and ―No claims‖ (E-claims). Then move on to the ―some claims‖. (I
and O claims).
5. If you have only one premise, then you’re done with your Venn diagram! If you have two premises,
then go ahead and ―draw‖ in the second premise.
6. If you have two premises and you are ―drawing in‖ a ―some-claim‖ (I or O) you might face a situation
where it’s not entirely clear where to place the X. You might be asked to place an X in an area which is
itself split into two sections, but not given enough information to determine which of the two sections X
should be placed! If this happens, then place the X on the line that divides the two sections. This
indicates that the X is ―sitting on the fence‖ and could go in either area - like this:
Some B’s are A’s. Note: Do not place the X to the left or right – place it squarely on the line.
Otherwise you are then excluding all possibility of ―some B’s‖ belonging to
C’s (which may not be true) or you are saying that definitely some B’s
belong to C’s (which also may not be true). If this hasn’t been made clear
then don’t assume that some B’s are C’s or that some B’s are not C’s. You
X just don’t know at this point and so place the X on the ―fence‖ – the line
that bisects the area overlapping A and B in this case. Don’t assume what
A C you don’t know!
7. Repeat this for each categorical claim that serves as a premise in the argument. Do not do this for the
conclusion claim however! To evaluate for validity or invalidity you simply look at the resulting diagram
and ―read off” the result – is the MC equivalent to the diagram? If the MC is equivalent then the
argument is valid. If it is not equivalent then the argument is invalid.
Let’s return to the boombox example and use our Venn diagrams to determine if the argument is valid or
MC – All radios are boom boxes.
P1 – All boom boxes are radios.
We begin with two overlapping circles, one for the category ―boomboxes‖ (the subject-term) and the
second circle, the category, ―radios‖ (the predicate-term). Since we only have one premise, P1, we will
―draw‖ that premise: ―All boomboxes are radios.‖
P1: All boomboxes are radios (an A-claim)
The shaded area indicates that the only boomboxes left remaining are those boomboxes which are also
radios. Or… there are no boomboxes which are not radios. So the only part of the boombox circle that is
left unshaded is that part that is simultaneously shared with the radios circle.
Note: Do not confuse the size of the shaded or unshaded portion with the number of members of that
category that exist.
Since we only have one categorical premise claim, we are finished and now can move on to determining
whether the argument is valid or whether the conclusion must necessarily follow from the given
We now examine the Venn diagram and see that the argument is invalid since the Venn diagram does not
agree with the MC, ―All radios are boomboxes.‖ If the diagram was equivalent to the MC then the only
portion of the above diagram that would be unshaded would be the overlapping section. But this is not the
case and since the diagram does not match the given conclusion in the argument, then the argument is
Let’s try another example.
MC – No yoga instructors are philosophy teachers.
P1 – No philosophy teachers are yoga instructors.
Is this argument valid? To find out let’s create a Venn diagram that shows the relationship between the
two terms that we are given in this argument (―yoga instructors‖ and ―philosophy teachers‖). First draw
two overlapping circles that show the two categories or terms in P1. Then shade.
P1: No philosophy teachers are Shaded result of P1…
yoga instructors (an E-claim)
Philo Yoga Philo Yoga
soph instru sophy instruc
y ctors Teac tors
In this case since no philosophy teachers are yoga instructors we should exclude all yoga instructors from
philosophy teachers. We show this by shading in the overlapped section of the two circles as below. Now
we can compare the Venn diagram to the conclusion above. When we examine the categorical claim that
is the conclusion, does it express the identical meaning as the circle that is associated with yoga
instructors? Yes, both say the exact same thing, so the argument is valid.
If we examine the Venn diagram we also see that… ―No yoga instructors are philosophy teachers‖ which
happens to be identical to the MC above. Thus the argument above is valid.
Now let’s move on to something a bit more complex. What happens if we have not one, but two
categorical claims as premises which lead us to believe a third categorical claim, the conclusion?
Arguments of this type are called categorical syllogisms.38 For example:
MC – All voters are wise citizens.
P1 – All voters are educated citizens.
P2 – All educated citizens are wise citizens.
MC – No dairy farmers have poultry.
P1 – All dairy farmers are Portuguese-Americans.
P2 – No Portuguese-Americans own poultry.
MC – Some cars are non-polluting vehicles.
P1 – Some cars are electric vehicles.
P2 – All electric vehicles are non-polluting vehicles.
MC – Some Myspace users have stomach aches.
P1 - All Myspace users are avoiding their homework.
P2 - Some people who avoid their homework have stomach aches.
Now let’s draw Venn diagrams for each argument and then check for validity. Since we have not one but
two categorical claim premises (and three, not two, terms) we must add a circle for the third term.
Let’s start with example #1 and draw our circles. Below to the left (step 1) we begin with the three circles
representing the three different terms (or noun-phrases) that occur: Voters, Educated citizens, and wise
citizens. Next (step 2) we see the results of shading when we shade what is excluded by the subject term
of P1 (―All voters are educated citizens.‖). Now that we’ve translated P1 on the Venn diagram, let’s
move on to P2, ―All educated citizens are wise citizens.‖ After shading what is explicitly excluded by
P2, we get the diagram to the right (step 3).
Example #1 from above…
Identify the terms Step 2: Translation of P1 Step 3: Translation of P2
Voters Wise Voters Wise
Syllogisms are two premise deductive arguments.
Now we are ready to see whether or not the argument is valid. Does the diagram match the last categorical
claim, the conclusion which states, ―All voters are wise citizens.‖ Yes it does. The only area that is
unshaded for voters is an area that entirely falls within the category, ―wise citizens.‖ Thus this is a valid
argument. It is impossible for the premises to be true and the conclusion false.
Example #2 – Try this on your own and then compare to my answer below. Be sure to use the three steps.
MC – No dairy farmers eat chicKen.
P1 – All dairy farmers are vegetarians.
P2 – No vegetarians eat chicKen.
Step 1: Identify the terms Step 2: Translation of P1 Step 3: Translation of P2
Dairy farmers Vegetarians Dairy farmers Vegetarians
Is the argument valid? Does the final diagram (of P2) yield a further categorical claim that matches the
MC? Yes the diagram matches the MC, ―No dairy farmers eat chicKen‖ and thus the argument is valid.
As you hopefully noticed however the main conclusion is false! How can an argument be both valid and
yet have a false conclusion? If you are not clear on this please review the prior chapter!
To solve example #3 you need to know how to translate a ―some‖ claim (see above for I and O claims).
In Venn diagrams, we show that some (at least one) A is or is not B by putting a mark (I use an X below)
in the relevant section of the diagram. It’s also important for you to remember to first translate and
diagram claims beginning with ―all‖ or ―no‖ before you diagram the ―some claims.‖ Thus below, after
identifying the three noun-phrase terms (step 1), I diagram P2 since it is an ―all‖ claim. Then I proceed to
P1. Had you diagrammed P1 first you would not have known where to place the X. By diagramming P2
first, there is only one area to place the X. Now let’s evaluate the syllogism. Does the diagram express
the same statement as the conclusion? Yes. Given the placement of the X, the diagram states that ―Some
cars are non-polluting vehicles.‖ Thus the argument is valid.
MC – Some cars are non-polluting vehicles.
P1 – Some cars are electric vehicles.
P2 – All electric vehicles are non-polluting vehicles
Step 1: Identify the terms Step 2: Translation of P2 Step 3: Translation of P1
Electric Vehicles Electric Vehicles Electric Vehicles
Cars Non-polluting Cars Non-polluting Cars Non-polluting
vehicles vehicles vehicles
Example #4 – To solve this last example you need to know what do if the ―X‖ can be placed into either
one of two adjoining areas? In this case, place the ―X‖ on the line which separates the two areas (but do
not place the ―X‖ on the line of its own circle-category!). In step 3 below it’s not clear whether P2 might
also include Myspace users as well as people with large stomach aches. Since we aren’t given enough
information to know, place the X on the line between these two (but still within the category, ―people
with large stomach aches.‖). Now let’s evaluate the argument for validity using the Venn diagram. Does
the diagram unequivocally state that ―some Myspace users have stomach aches‖? Although the ―X‖ is on
the line adjoining the ―Myspace‖ category it is not inside the Myspace category. Thus since we cannot say
for sure that ―some Myspace users have stomach aches,‖ the argument is invalid since the conclusion is
not guaranteed by the premises. (Note: if the ―X‖ had been mistakenly placed with in the ―Myspace users‖
instead of on the line, the diagram would have (mistakenly) indicated that the argument was valid.)
MC – Some Myspace users have stomach aches.
P1 - All Myspace users are avoiding their homework.
P2 - Some people who avoid their homework have stomach aches.
Step 1: Identify the terms Step 2: Translation of P1 Step 3: Translation of P2
People who avoid
People who avoid People who avoid
their homework their homework
Myspace users People with Myspace
People with People with
stomach aches users Myspace
stomach aches stomach aches
C. Stylistic variants and Contradictories of categorical claims
1. Stylistic variants of A and I categorical claims
Stylistic variants of categorical claims. A = antecedent claim; B = consequent claim
Some Stylistic variants of A-claims (All A are B) Example
1. Every A is B. Every soft drink is a fattening liquid.
2. As are Bs. Soft drinks are fattening liquids.
3. Everything that is A is B. Everything that is a soft drink is a fattening liquid.
4. Only Bs are As. Only fattening liquids are contained in soft drinks.
5. B only if A Liquids are fattening only if they are soft drinks.
6. B whenever/wherever A Liquids are fattening whenever they are soft drinks.
7. Specific thing A is B Aristotle is a philosopher (This is categorical because
―Aristotle‖ can be restated as: ―All things identical with Aristotle are
8. Adjectives = adjective noun phrases Fattening = fattening liquids
Some Stylistic variants of I-claims (“Some A are B”)
1. There is an A that is B. There is a soft drink that is a fattening liquid.
2. At least one A is B. At least one soft drink is a fattening liquid.
3. There exists an B-A (if B is an adjective) There exists a fattening soft drink-liquid.
By the way, contradictories are helpful in that they tell us what is needed to prove a
claim false. In the case of conditionals all one needs is to find a situation in which A is
true but B is not true. Then this proves that the statement, if A then B, false.
A contradictory of a claim is simply a claim with the opposite truth-value of what it is
contradicting. Thus it’s impossible for contradictories, A and ~A (not-A) to both be
true at the same time.39 Sounds simple, yes? Well actually they are a bit tricky. One of
the most common mistakes with ―all‖ and ―some‖ claims is getting the contradictory of these claims
wrong. The tricky thing with contradictories here is that it’s not so simple as inserting the word ―not‖ in
the contradictory claim. Thus the contradictory of ―All cats meow‖ is not ―all cats don’t meow.‖ The
contradictory of ―all cats meow‖ is ―some cats do not meow.‖ In the chart below is a very rough guide to
determining the contradictory of X statement.
A contradictory statement is sometimes called a negation or a negative universal claim.
2. Contradictories of A, E, I, O Categorical claims
Contradictories of A- and I- Categorical claims - The contradictory of a conditional, ―If A, then
B‖ claim is, ―A, but not B.‖ So be sure to note that a contradictory of a conditional is not another
A-claim form A-claim contradictory form
All A are B Some A are not B
Not every A is B
E-claim form E-claim contradictory form
No A are B Some A are B
I-claim form E-claim contradictory form
Some A are B No A are B
All A are not B
O-claim form E-claim contradictory form
Some A are not B All A are B (notice that the contradictory of an O-claim is an A-claim!)
Can you think of three sentences that cannot be translated categorically? I will give you some
extra credit if you are able to do so.
D. Recap: Concepts you need to know from chapter VI
1. A, E, I, O standard-form of claims
2. Definition of a categorical claim
3. Venn Diagrams
4. Contradictories of standard form claims.
VII. MC-P DIAGRAMMING AND ARGUMENT
N ow that you have some grasp of the pieces that comprise arguments and how these pieces relate to
each other, we can focus on reading and then evaluating arguments. This chapter explains how to
faithfully read and reconstruct (diagram) an argument. If you are wondering why this is
necessary, simply take a moment to reflect on how many times an opinion that you were trying to
communicate to another was fundamentally misunderstood and due to this misunderstanding neither of
you could agree nor resolve the issue being discussed. Thus in critical reasoning we take extra care in
making sure that we understand exactly the argument that another is presenting before criticizing or
agreeing with it. If you don’t know what another person is really saying, then you cannot legitimately
criticize nor agree with their argument.
This attitude is sometimes called the principle of fidelity and both paraphrasing and diagramming can
help us achieve this principle: our commitment to pay careful attention to the text and not to distort the
claims or logical relationships in the argument.
Below I discuss the MC-P diagramming method used to reconstruct another’s argument. Diagramming is
crucial because it not only shows that one understands the claims in an argument, diagramming also
shows that one understands the author’s intended reasoning strategy and logical relation between claims.
When reconstructing another’s argument the first step is deciding which claims to omit, the next step is
then to paraphrase unclear or grammatically incorrect claims, the third step is to create a diagram of the
argument, and finally you will need to insert unstated but implied claims needed to make the logical
relations clear and persuasive. Do not, however, insert unstated claims that are not implied by what the
author has stated.
A. Overview – MC, P/SC, & P symbols
The first step in diagramming is to be clear about the definition of the terms used in the MC-P diagram.
The following elements are used in MC-P diagrams: 1) Main conclusions (MC); 2) Basic premises (P),
and 3) Premise/Sub-conclusions (P/SCs). These are defined below:
1) MC - A Main Conclusion is the final conclusion in an argument that attempts to resolve a given issue.
This is the ultimate aim of the arguer – she or he is trying, in a sense, to control your mind and/or
behavior by getting you to adopt her or his position by giving your reasons for you to do so. Main
conclusions will be given the symbol ―MC‖ in our argument diagrams (see Chapter V. Section C).
2) P - Basic Premises are reasons given in support of conclusions. These will be indicated by the symbol,
―P‖. If a claim is a basic premise, then it is supporting either a main conclusion or a premise/sub-
conclusion (see #3 below).
Think of basic premises as the foundation of your arguments – these are premises for which no further
support is given yet they directly support either sub-conclusions or main conclusions. In fact, the only
premises that are not also sub-conclusions are basic premises. Thus they should be the strongest in terms
of truth-value because if the basic premises are false, then the sub-conclusions, even if based upon valid
inferences from supposedly true (but actually false) basic premises, will be unsound or bad. In fact the
entire argument that is based on basic premises will be unsound or bad if the basic premises are false. You
can think of this situation as resembling a domino-like effect in which all the higher-level sub-conclusions
and main conclusion are knocked down if directly or indirectly based upon false basic premises. Basic
premises will be given the notation, ―P‖ when we diagram arguments.
Since basic premises are an argument’s foundation, they should have the most credibility as claims (see
page 101 for a discussion of credibility and claims).
3) P/SC - A Premise/Sub-Conclusion is an intermediate conclusion that is both supported by basic
premises and simultaneously serves as a premise in support of another premise/sub-conclusion or the
main conclusion. Premise/Sub-conclusions will be given the symbol ―P/SC‖ in our argument diagrams.
Here is an example:
―Limit yourself to one hour of TV a day because TV causes mild depression because numerous
studies have shown that after more than one hour of TV, people report higher levels of
unhappiness and increased apathy.”
Here the sub-conclusion is ―TV causes mild depression‖ because this is a premise that directly supports
the main conclusion but also serves as a sub-conclusion for the basic premise, ―Numerous studies have
Obviously, this points to an efficient strategy for critiquing another’s argument: first check
out the basic premises. If these are suspect or false, then the entire argument is likely to fail
as well. Beginning your evaluation of arguments with basic premises is an efficient,
timesaving strategy for evaluating arguments.
B. Indicators and Discounts
Premise, equal premise, and conclusion indicators help us to sort out the logical relationships of a
given argument’s claims.
1. Premise Indicators
Premise indicators tell us that the part of the sentence or claim that comes after the indicator is a
premise and the part before (or claim) is a conclusion for the premise. Usually.40
2. Equal premise indicators
Equal premise indicators tell us that two premises or two sub-conclusions equally support the same
sub-conclusion or main conclusion. The two premises that equally support a conclusion can either
independently or jointly support the same conclusion. Later when we discuss diagramming we will use
linking to indicate that equal premises jointly support the same conclusion.
An exception here is the word because which can indicate either a premise or a causal explanation. This is discussed
further in Chapter IV.
3. Conclusion Indicators
These indicators tell us that the part of the sentence or claim that comes after the indicator is a
conclusion and the part before is a premise for the conclusion. You can think of conclusion indicators
as anti-premise indicators.
Examples of Indicators: Here is a string of unsupported claims that would not constitute an argument in
"People who perform abortions are immoral. Abortion should be outlawed in every state. We should lock
up people who perform abortions. Any legislator who favors abortion should be impeached."
But notice that when we add indicators below in bold we do now have an argument since it is clear which
claims are premises and which claim is the conclusion. It is also not clear which issue (and thus main
conclusion) is being considered above. While we might make a good guess as to the main conclusion, the
use of indicators can make this clear:
"Because people who perform abortions are immoral, it follows that abortion should be outlawed in
every state and also that we should lock up people who perform abortions. Thus, any legislator who
favors abortion should be impeached."
The word "because" is a premise indicator for ―people who perform… immoral‖; ―it follows that”
signifies that what follows (―abortion should be outlawed in every state”) is a conclusion, in this case a
sub-conclusion of the preceding premise. ―Also‖ is an equal premise indicator for the premise “we should
lock up…abortions,‖ that is to be combined with the sub-conclusion, ―abortion should be outlawed in
every state,” such that both will equally support the main conclusion, any legislator who favors abortion
should be impeached, which is indicated by the word thus.
As you can see, this can get pretty complicated, which is why it’s helpful and easier to diagram arguments
as will be shown below on page 70.
Following is a list of premise, equal premise, and conclusion indicators. You should become
supersensitive to these words. Although often misused, they are logical terms that help you determine the
structure of an argument. To help sensitize you to their use, you should circle them whenever you spot
one of these creatures. You should also learn to use them whenever you provide arguments to support
Premise Indicators Equal Premise Indicators Conclusion Indicators
Because And Therefore
Since But Hence
On account of Also Thus
Due to Furthermore Consequently
For Moreover So
As a result of However It follows that
For the reason that Nevertheless As a result
In as much as Besides We can show that
Given that Finally
Suppose that Yet
It follows from
You may earn some extra credit if you wish by turning in a list of premise, equal premise, and
conclusion indicators in a language other than English or… turn in a list of additional indicators
in English. Be sure to include at least eight words for each category. See footnote 5 for extra credit policy.
Discounts are expressions that tell us of a contrast or conflict between ideas AND additionally tell us the
author’s view as to which idea is superior and which idea is inferior. Discount indicators: although,
though, even if, even though, still, while, despite the fact that, but, however, nonetheless, yet, etc.
These do not always act as discounts. For example, "but" can also act as a conjunction, i.e. an equal
Why are discounts important? The "superior" or favored statement is often going to be used by the author
to further her or his argument.
The "inferior" or non-favored statement is often a premise that could easily lead you to a conclusion that
the author thinks you might make but does not want you to make. They are trying to "head you off"
before you jump to the wrong conclusion.
C. The MC-P Method – What to Include
o help us understand and evaluate arguments, we will diagram them by listing the premises in
their proper logical relationships. This will appear to be something like an outline, although in fact
it is very different from an outline, which simply groups ideas by topics. Many students make this
mistake when first learning to diagram. They confuse a diagram of an argument with a paper outline.
When we diagram we break an argument into its parts and then reconstruct the parts to show the logical
relationships between the parts. Thus, unlike a paper outline, the original sentence order of the written
argument is often rearranged. We also toss out some unneeded parts: stage setting sentences, stylistic
variants, explanatory comparisons, and indicators. These unneeded parts should be added to your garden
compost for next spring.
When analyzing and diagramming an argument, the first thing you should do is to circle all the premise,
equal premise, or conclusion indicators in the prose version of the argument. Then you should [bracket
and number] each claim and underline the main conclusion. Each argument should have one main
conclusion, although it can have many sub-conclusions and premises. Of course if you identify two MCs
then the author is confusing two issues.41 You will then need to identify the different issues and deal with
each one separately.
Next, cross out unnecessary claims, paraphrase or rewrite claims if need be, and include all relevant
claims including the main conclusion in the diagram format shown below. Be sure to omit all indicator
Unless the author is intentionally committing the red herring fallacy.
words, and add words if needed to make complete sentences. Every claim in your diagram should be a
Each claim will be preceded by one of three symbols: MC, P/SC, or P. An (I) will also be added to these
symbols if the claim is implied. For example, MC(I), P/SC(I), or P(I). MC stands for main conclusion,
P/SC for premise/sub-conclusion, and P for basic premise.
Each argument diagram should
MC – Main conclusion here – what the author is trying to persuade you to believe or do
only have one MC claim which is
P/SC1 – A premise that gives you a good reason to believe the MC. It is also a sub- placed at the top of the diagram.
conclusion in relation to its supporting premise below. Thus we write Next, place all P/SC or P claims
that directly support the main
P/SC2 -A premise that gives you a good reason to believe P/SC1 above. It conclusion underneath the MC but
is also a sub-conclusion in relation to its supporting premise below. indent one unit to the right. If a
Thus we write ―P/SC2‖ here.
claim that supports the main
P3 – Basic premise that gives you a good reason to believe conclusion is itself supported by a
P/SC2 above. Since there are no premises supporting this premise then label the claim with a
P3 we only write ―P3‖ here.
P/SC since it is a premise in
P4 – A basic premise that directly supports the main conclusion. Since there are support of the main conclusion but
no premises supporting P4we only write ―P4‖ here instead of P/SC4. is simultaneously a sub-conclusion
supported by another premise.
Every P/SC or P should be written directly underneath and one unit to the right of the claim that they are
supporting. For any premises that do not have other premises supporting them, label these non-supported
premises with a ―P.‖ These are called basic premises and serve as important foundational building blocks
to the argument.
An argument can theoretically have an infinite number of premises although in this course we will
primarily be dealing with short arguments with no more than 10 or 15 premises.
When diagramming an argument, that is, when ‖photographing‖ an argument, the arguer
will often intend that one claim supports another and yet it may be clear to you that the intended
premise does not in fact support the conclusion. For instance, if it does not pass the Premise
Test. Should you represent this as a premise when diagramming the argument? At this stage yes
– since the first step when diagramming another’s argument is to present the argument from the
perspective of the arguer. But, when evaluating the argument you can and should note, when
the implication or inference does not hold, that the author is reasoning poorly. Do not however
indicate premises as supporting sub-conclusion when it is impossible to conceive of any
rational person intending that a premise supports a conclusion or sub-conclusion. If you cannot
reorganize the diagram and perhaps omit unnecessary claims then perhaps you are not dealing
with an argument at all! For example, you may be dealing with a series of non-sequiturs. See
below for an example of this and the notations that I’ll use on your papers to indicate when you
are committing this fallacy (or error in reasoning) of the non-sequitur (in Latin: it does not
If two premises do not support a conclusion independently but only in conjunction with one another,
circle and connect them (linked premises) with a line. For example:
MC - Socrates is wise.
P1 Socrates is a philosopher.
P2 All philosophers are wise.
You should keep in mind that if two premises are linked and one of the premises is found to be false, then
the linked premises taken together fails to support the conclusion. On the other hand if two equal
premises independently support the same conclusion and just one of the premises is later found to be
false, the conclusion is still supported by the remaining premise.
By the way, can you convert the above-diagrammed argument into prose form? How many stylistic
variants of this argument can you form? Compare your answer to mine below.42
Here, by the way is an example of non-linked, independent premises:
MC – You should complete as much critical reasoning homework as you are able to.
P1 – The homeworks will prepare you for the exams.
P2 – If you complete the homeworks you will be a nicer person in the end.
Can you spot the use of moral and prudential claims here?
3. Preponderance of Evidence
At times you will come across an argument with equal premises that do not support the conclusion
independently or as linked premises. In this case you have what lawyers term a preponderance of
evidence. For example this argument by Thomas Jefferson that I’ve paraphrased to keep brief:
MC – The King of Great Britain has, in seeking to establish an absolute tyranny over the U.S., repeatedly injured and
committed usurpations against the U.S.
P1– The King has dissolved representative houses for opposing the King’s invasions of the people’s rights.
P2– The King has called for legislative meetings at unusual, uncomfortable, and distant places in order to fatigue the
colonists into compliance with his measures.
P3– The King has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people
agree to give up their right of representation in the legislature.
P4/SC– The King has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and urgent importance.
P – The King has refused to agree to wholesome laws needed for the public good.
Socrates is wise because he is a philosopher and all philosophers are wise. OR… Socrates is a philosopher and all philosophers are wise,
thus Socrates is wise. OR… Since all philosophers are wise and as well Socrates is a philosopher it follows that Socrates is wise. OR…
It’s pretty obvious I think that premises 1 through 4 itemizing the King’s offenses are not independent
since taken singly each one alone does not pass the Premise Test leading to the conclusion. Try it. Do you
agree? Now, since the MC lists ―repeated injuries and usurpations‖ it seems that we must link P1 through
P4 together in order to support the MC that there are repeated injuries. The problem here though is that if
just one of these P’s is found to be false, since all are linked, the argument will fail if Mr. King had done
all but one of these things. This seems wrong too. In arguments like this where the relationship between
equal premises and conclusion lies somewhere between linked premises and independent premises, ―link‖
the premises together with a dashed line indicating a preponderance of evidence such that even if one
premise is found to be false the remaining premises taken together still support the conclusion.
4. Order of Premises
The order that the premises supporting the same conclusion are written down in the structure is
5. When to insert unstated, implied claims
Implicit claims are claims that are left unstated by the author but required in order to ensure that the
argument is either coherent or sound. Implicit claims can be either conclusions or premises. An implicit
conclusion is a conclusion that is implied or necessarily suggested but is not explicitly stated in the given
argument. An implicit premise is a premise that is implied but is not explicitly stated in the given
Here’s an example: Xiang: ―I want you to know that I’m going to be late for dinner this evening because
of the traffic on Highway 85.” As given there is one stated premise, There is traffic on Highway 85 this
evening that leads one to believe the main conclusion, Xiang will be late for dinner this evening.
However, it is unstated but implied that Xiang will be traveling by car or bus on Highway 85. So really
we have two premises – one stated premise as given above and an implicit premise: Xiang will be
traveling by car or bus on Highway 85.
Implicit main conclusions are a bit easier to deal with as there is only one implicit main conclusion to be
identified as long as one is discussing one issue.
Here’s an example: Advertisement: ―Fitness19 is just right for you because you’ll receive30 minute total
body workout, baby-sitting facilities, mega cardio center, and discounted family membership.” Can you
identify the implicit or implied conclusion? As with most advertisements, the implicit (and often unstated)
conclusion is, ―Buy X‖. In this case the implicit conclusion is: Join Fitness 19 now.
Or consider the following example:
―You're an embezzler. Therefore, you're a criminal. So, you know where you'll end up, don't you? And say
Hello to the warden when you get there.‖
The above argument is incomplete. But we can make a good guess at what the arguer means. Here is the
reconstructed diagrammed argument with both the implicit premise and implied conclusion filled in.
MC(I) - You will end up in jail.
P1 (I) All criminals end up in jail.
P/SC2 You're a criminal.
P3 You're an embezzler.
You should be asking a couple questions at this point – 1) how many implicit premises are there in a
given argument? and 2) how do I know when to use them and when not to? The answer to the first
question is that it depends. It depends on the sort of argument one is dealing with but generally there are
probably zillions, perhaps an infinite? number of implicit premises – but don’t worry as you only need to
include in your argument diagrams essential implicit premises. Generally you can omit implicit premises
that we have no reason to question and that form the background of our everyday reasoning. We term
these background beliefs and are discussed below.
Remember that an implied premise is nothing other than a missing premise needed to make an argument
valid or strong. With the implied premise and conclusion filled in, both steps of the above argument are
valid, and thus the argument is valid.
A general rule of thumb is to only include as implicit claims, claims that could come up for discussion
and claims which, if absent, the reader could not be led to see the conclusion. You can also add implicit
premises to rule out a specific counterexample.
Implicit claims are extremely important to consider when diagramming arguments since
without including these in your diagrams you might unfairly, and too hastily dismiss an
argument, or… too quickly accept a dubious argument.
D. The MC-P Method - What To Omit
1. Stylistic Variants
Stylistic variants are what we call claims that are expressed in two or more ways. Thus ―I am stuck in
traffic,‖ ―Traffic has entombed my car,‖ and ―I am surrounded by non-moving automobiles on a
highway,‖ are all stylistic variants of one another. Each sentence uses different words but each expresses
the same idea, the same identical - or very similar - meaning. Why is this important? When diagramming,
analyzing or ―photographing‖ an argument of an author, we should only represent stylistic variants once.
Also, while it’s often useful in your writing to make use of stylistic variants (for example, explanatory
definitions or comparisons), overuse of these leads to redundancy. Awareness of stylistic variants helps us
to write more concisely.
2. Omit Stage Setting Claims:
As stated above, not every statement or sentence in an argument operates as a premise or a conclusion.
Some sentences just give background information or stage setting that simply places the author's
argument in context: by explaining why something is being discussed or providing background
information. You should omit these sorts of claims from argument diagrams.
For example: El Salvador is a small country in Central America. It is one of the
poorest countries in Latin America. The U.S. should discontinue all
aid to the government. The government is terribly corrupt.
MC – The U.S. should discontinue all aid to the government.
P1 — The government is terribly corrupt.
You should omit the stage setting background information.
3. Omit Unnecessary Words
Paraphrasing is legitimate and often helpful since you can eliminate unnecessary words such as stylistic
variants, references to authorship, slanter words, unassertions, and hedge words.
a. Omit references to authorship
Don’t worry about who is giving the reasons, just focus on the reasons that are given by the author.
Another way to think of this is to omit the first and third person dependent clauses —"He says" or
"Rogers thinks" or "I think that". Who said it is irrelevant because we really want to pay attention to the
kinds of things people will reason about, not their attitudes toward what they reason about. Usually. What
is being said is relevant. Hint: Avoid the Ad Hominid fallacy here (See chapter 7, Content Fallacies).
EXCEPTION: Include references to the person if the argument is about why person reasons as they do.
b. Omit slanter words
Slanters are slimy little words that try to manipulate us into thinking that the author has already given a
persuasive argument for an opinion when in actuality there is no support given for the opinion. Slanter
words should make you suspicious: "Why does this author substitute slanters in place of giving their
reasons up front?‖ Examples of slanter words: "Obviously…‖ "It is a well known fact that…" "Clearly…"
"As we all know…" ―Any idiot can see…"
c. Omit unassertions
Unassertions are claims whose truth we are not committed to. With unasserted claims or suppositions we
do not believe them to be true. But we also do not believe them to be false. We simply are not committed
to them either as true or false. Unassertions usually include words like might, could, or possibly. Premises
(see below) should not be unassertions unless the unassertions are inserted into conditionals (see below)
or you can reasonably rephrase them as assertions. Unassertions are still considered claims, however,
because unassertions are still true or false.
Example: ―That might be an umbrella.‖ Since it is only possible that the object is an umbrella this is a
claim that the author is not committed to in terms of its truth-value. It is still a claim by the way because it
makes sense to ask whether the statement, ―That might be an umbrella‖ is true or false – true in that there
is a possibility that it is an umbrella or false in that there is no possibility that it is an umbrella.
Generally unassertions are ignored when constructing one’s own argument or when
analyzing another’s argument. You may however restate or paraphrase unassertions as
assertions if this is consistent with the arguer’s intention.
While you should revise or omit unassertions you should, obviously, retain assertions. Assertions are
claims whose truth we are committed to. We do believe or assume these to be true. Even if these claims
are false, if we say that we believe them to be true, then such claims are assertions.
Example: “Martians exist.” If I truly believe this to be true then I have just given an assertion even
though this claim is actually false. All premises should be assertions. Thus ―Martians might exist.” is an
unassertion and should not be used in an argument.
d. Omit hedge words
Hedges are comments by the author in which the author qualifies or "downgrades" their view of
something. "Drag racing is great, some of the time." "Some of the time" serves to downgrade this claim. If
we leave "some of the time" in the claim, it is sort of useless, due to the vagueness of "some of the time."
When exactly is drag racing great or not? So leave out the hedge and then look for reasons given by the
author as to why they are hedging. If no reasons are given then be suspicious. The author isn’t sure of
their reason and or argument here. These are especially good to take into account when evaluating
arguments. They are tip-offs of lack of confidence by the arguer. For example, "X suggests Y" is weaker
than "X implies Y"
e. Omit indicator words
f. Omit background beliefs
Every claim is presented against an unstated set of background beliefs needed for the claim to make sense.
Background beliefs are claims that must be true in order for other claims to be either true or false.
For example the claim, ―You drive a car” contains unstated background claims or presuppositions such as
―The industrial revolution occurred”; “cars are widely available”; “cars are transportation devices that
people can direct,” etc.
Usually background claims or presuppositions can remain unstated. Background beliefs are
uncontroversial and not confusing nor puzzling.
Test to see if X is a background belief: X is a background belief if it difficult to picture or imagine the
contrary of X. (it’s hard to even picture to ourselves X as false). You can think of background beliefs or
presuppositions as built-in ―software code‖ that are invisible, rarely are discussed yet required in order for
claims to make sense.
Note: Background beliefs are not implicit premises because presuppositions are not required to ensure
that an argument is good or sound. Thus we don’t add these to our MC-P diagrams. But they do help in
evaluating arguments because a premise that rests on false background presuppositions can be tossed out -
not because it is a false premise but because it is a meaningless premise.
E. The MC-P Method – What needs to be paraphrased?
To paraphrase is to rewrite another's argument in your own words without changing the meaning of the
original text. By rewriting another's argument we can 1) check if we truly understand the claims; 2)
clarify and make the other's argument clearer, and 3) identify areas that require further questioning or
What to keep in mind when paraphrasing:
1. Check to make sure that your paraphrased claims are complete sentences.
2. Rewrite all rhetorical questions as declarative statements. Rhetorical questions are statements in the
form of a question but whose meaning is that of a declarative claim. In other words, rhetorical questions
are questions that really are not questions but instead are stylistic variants of declarative claims.
For example the rhetorical question, “Shouldn’t you quit smoking?” should be transformed into,
“You should quit smoking.”
3. Reduce to a minimum the vocabulary in which the argument is presented.
4. Replace pronouns (he, she, it) with their reference (Marty, Melinda, Blimpy)
5. Clarify vague and ambiguous terms if you are fairly sure that you are not distorting the author's view;
OR omit vague and ambiguous terms if you truly cannot determine what is being said.
6. Paraphrase figurative language - or metaphor – language that is not intended to be taken literally but
instead is language that paints a "picture," which then stands for something else. For example, in the
phrase, "he was caught red handed," "Red-handed" is figurative; he literally did not have red hands, but
instead this stands for something else – which he was stealing. Thus this would be paraphrased as "He
was caught stealing."
7. Paraphrase uses of irony. Irony is when one intentionally says the opposite of what they really mean
and often irony is used to point out the absurdity of a position. Sarcasm is often a type of irony.
F. MC-P Method - Examples
1.Abortions should remain legal. Legalization diminishes the number of unsafe abortions and allows each
woman to choose whether or not to have a child.
MC - Abortions should remain legal.
P1 - Legalization diminishes the number of unsafe abortions.
P2 - Legalization allows each woman to choose whether or not to have a child.
2. Driving when you are drunk is harmful to yourself. It is also immoral since other people’s lives are
endangered. Therefore you should never drive when you are drunk.
MC You should never drive when you are drunk.
P1 - Drunk driving is harmful to you.
P/SC2 - Drunk driving is immoral.
P3 - Other people’s lives are endangered.
3.You should not smoke cigarettes. They are certainly bad for your health since studies have conclusively
linked cigarette smoking with lung cancer. Also, you endanger others since studies have shown that
being in the vicinity of smokers increases the probability of contracting cancer. Finally, cigarette
smoking interferes with one’s concentration.
MC - You should not smoke.
P/SC1 - Cigarettes are bad for your health.
P2 - Studies have linked them with lung cancer.
P/SC3 - You endanger others.
P4 - Studies have shown that the being in the vicinity in smokers increases the probability
of contracting cancer.
P5 - Cigarette smoking interferes with one’s concentration.
5.You should run several miles everyday. Exercise is very important. It contributes to both psychological
and physical health. Studies have shown that exercise lessens depression.
MC -You should run several miles everyday.
P/SC1 - Exercise is very important
P2 - Exercise contributes to physical health.
P/SC3 - Exercise contributes to psychological health.
P4 - Studies show it cures depression.
Here is an example of a poorly constructed argument and the correction notation that I will use on your
Goodness is knowing right from wrong because I love my family. Also, right and wrong are what
goodness is all about and God is the truth. Finally, right and wrong actually exist for every person and
we can have knowledge of right and wrong.
Here is the same argument now in diagram form:
MC: Goodness is knowing right from wrong.
P1 - I love my family.
P2 - Right and wrong are what goodness is all about
P3 - God is the Truth
P4 - Right and wrong actually exist for every person.
P5 - We can have knowledge of right and wrong
As you might have noticed this is a confused argument because some of the premises have little
connection to the conclusion and one premise is just a restatement or stylistic variant of the conclusion.
Probably the author was sloppy when writing their argument and didn’t really intend for all of the
premises (P’s) to be supporting the main conclusion (MC). In fact only P4 and P5 support the MC.
Usually when diagramming an argument like this we will eliminate stylistic variants (P2 – which is a
stylistic variant of which claim above?43) and rearrange or omit P’s that are not in support of any
conclusions (P1 and P3 – stage setting here?).
So, above you will notice that you need both reasons P4 and P5 to believe in the definition above. Thus,
they should be linked with a line as I’ve done below. Now, whether or not you agree with reasons P4 and
P2 is a stylistic variant of the MC
P5, at least we can now have a real discussion about the definition. If I only gave you reasons P1, P2, or
P3 we could not have much of a discussion. Ok, you love your family. How is this premise relevant to
your conclusion of right and wrong? We can’t get very far with that ―premise‖ as it really is a non
But P4 and P5 are reasons for the opinion about goodness above and so we can have a discussion. You
might disagree with me, but because I gave reasons we can continue in our discussion. You might ask me
– ―Is knowing right and wrong enough? Shouldn’t you also do the right thing?‖ Or you might ask me –
―How do you know that right and wrong exist?‖ or ―How do you know that we can know right and
wrong?‖ While I may or may not be able to answer these questions, at the very least I will have to rethink
my argument and perhaps improve it. Of course, you will also listen to my responses and then decide if I
am on the right track or not. If I cannot respond to your questions, perhaps I don’t know what I am
talking about and should listen to you instead. At least then you’d know that I don’t know. Maybe. So
we benefit others and ourselves by giving reasons - even if they do not last for long - because we learn to
communicate more clearly and improve our knowledge about the world and ourselves.
Usually, if you diagram an argument like this, I will write the following notation in evil red ink whenever
I see you indicating that P supports a P/SC or MC where I cannot, for the life of me, see the relation.
With the example above I would put the following comments on your paper:
MC: Goodness is knowing right from wrong.
P1 - I love my family. SV. Same.
OK. P2 - Right and wrong are what goodness is all about (stylistic variant with MC.)
P3 - God is the Truth
P4 - Right and wrong actually exist for every person.
P5 - We can have knowledge of right and wrong
My Notation Key when grading your assignments:
= Non sequitur; there is no coherent relation between the premise and conclusion. It makes no
sense to me to say, ―MC (or P/SC) because P (or P/SC)‖. Try this out with MC because P1 Does
that make any sense whatsoever?
OK. = Yes, it makes sense to say MC (or P/SC) because P (or P/SC), although it still may not pass the
Premise Test. But at least it is a plausible reason.
SV. = Stylistic Variant – you are just restating another claim and so you should omit.
= Indent to the right one tab. This is a P in support of the P above, not equal.
= Indent to the left one tab. This P is an equal P with the P above, not in support.
G. Recap: Concepts you need to know from chapter seven
1. MC-P method & rules
2. Preponderance of Evidence
3. What to omit from MC-P diagrams
VIII. INDUCTIVE ARGUMENTS
A. Analogical and Generalization Reasoning
Inductively good arguments are arguments whose premises, if true, offer good support for the main
conclusion of the argument such that it is unlikely, if the premises are true, that the conclusion is false.
With deductive arguments, the premises, if true, guarantee, 100%, the truth of the conclusion. So in a
sense we can say that with deductive arguments the conclusion is already implicitly within the premises.
With inductive reasoning this is not the case. Instead we reason from premises that are observed to a
conclusion that is unobserved (from the standpoint of the premises). Thus inductive inferences are always
probable, never absolute.
There are two types of reasoning from observed premises to an unobserved conclusion, or via
probabilistic reasoning: arguments by analogy and arguments by generalization. In both cases the person
hearing or reading the argument is asked to move from what she or he observes, called a sample, to that
which she or he has not yet observed, the target. The confidence that the premises lead to the conclusion
is based upon the similarities between the premises and conclusion.
Inductive arguments have the following form:
MC: Target ―Y‖ has property ―P.‖
P1 – Sample X has properties A, B, C, etc. (Note: compared to Y we know more about the
properties of X)
P2 – Sample X also has property ―P‖.
P3 – Sample Y has properties A, B, etc (Note: compared to X we know less about the properties of
Sample = ―an item that we believe something about‖; In arguments, the sample is usually part of the
premise that supports a conclusion of some sort.
Target (Population) = ―the item or group of items to which we wish to extend our belief.‖ So, you should
note that usually the MC or main conclusion (or sub-conclusions) contain those ideas ―to which we wish
to extend our belief.‖ So targets are expressed in our conclusions – either sub-conclusions and/or main
Often the ―target‖ is the entire group or class of things to which the sample belongs.
Property = a feature, characteristic or quality. Note: this can be a verb, adjective, noun, etc.
1. Argument by Analogy: when the sample is distinct from the target. An additional clue: when the
target is ―one thing‖ and not a group.
2. Argument by Generalization: when the sample belongs to or is part of the target.
Criteria for inductively good analogical arguments or arguments by generalization: to what degree does
the sample represent the target? How similar with respect to the property are the sample and target? If
very similar then it’s a good argument.
B. Danger: Analogy Fallacies (3)
1. False Analogy (Also Called Questionable Analogy)
In arguing by analogy, a person makes a claim about one thing by making it about another thing that is
easier to understand. They assume that the two things are basically similar so that what is true of one
should be true of the other. For example, "Reasoning is like running. By analyzing how to run one can
improve one’s running ability. So by analyzing how to reason, one can improve one’s reasoning ability."
In FALSE ANALOGY, there is a crucial dissimilarity between the two things being compared so that
what is true of one is not true of the other.
One should keep in mind a couple things about analogies. First, analogies are, usually, neither true nor
false since they compare two things by degrees of similarity - from near identity to extreme dissimilarity.
Thus no analogy is perfect, even good ones, since there is always some difference between the things
being compared. Secondly, there is always some similarity between any two objects, no matter how
different so it can be tempting to overuse or abuse analogies to prove a point.
A is like B.
B has property C.
Therefore, A has property C.
(Where the analogy between A and B is weak because there is a CRUCIAL DISSIMILARITY between A
MC – ―A‖ has the property or characteristic of ―C‖
P1 – ―A‖ is similar to ―B‖
P2 – ―B‖ has property or characteristic ―C‖
Under what conditions is this a fallacy? This is only a fallacy, or a bad argument if the first premise
above, “A” is similar to “B” with respect to properties such as “C” is a questionable premise. If a
crucial dissimilarity exists between A and B with respect to C, then this premise is questionable or false
and thus based on this we have no good reason to believe the MC.
1) The mind is like a razor. The more you use it the duller it gets. Note: in the above MC-P form, ―A‖ =
mind; ―B‖ = razors; ―C‖ = degree of dullness.
2) Efforts to ban chlordane assailed
WASHINGTON (AP)--The only exterminator in Congress told his colleagues Wednesday that it would be a shortsighted move
to ban use of chlordane and related termiticides that cause cancer in laboratory animals.
Supporters of the bill, however, claimed that the Environmental Protection Agency was "dragging its feet" on a chemical that
could cause 300,000 cancers in the American population in 70 years.
"This bill reminds me of legislation that ought to be introduced to outlaw automobiles on the grounds that cars kill people,‖
said Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, who owns an exterminating business.
EPA banned use of the chemicals on crops in 1974, but permitted use against termites because the agency did not believe
humans were exposed. Chlordane does not kill termites but rather drives them away. (Associated Press, June 25th, 1987)
In example three above, what is being compared here? What is A and B? What is the crucial
dissimilarity? There is another fallacy here as well, appeal to authority. Do you know why? 44
2. Two Wrongs
This fallacy involves the attempt to justify a wrong action by pointing to another wrong action. Often, the
other wrong action is of the same type or committed by the accuser.
MC - Action A is morally justified.
P1 – Action B was permitted or conducted.
P2 - Action B is wrong.
P3 - Action B is similar to Action A.
P4 (Implied) – Action A is wrong.
Link all 4 Ps...
Under what conditions is this a fallacy? This argument is always bad because the implied premise, Action
A is wrong, contradicts the MC and thus the premises do not lead us to believe the MC. The MC and the
last P are inconsistent and contradictory claims .
1) The following quote is from the memoirs of Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers, concerning a
bombing attack by the Weathermen on the Pentagon:
The operation cost just under $500, and no one was killed, or even hurt. In that same time the Pentagon
spent tens of millions of dollars and dropped tens of thousands of pounds of explosives on Viet Nam,
killing or wounding thousands of human beings, causing hundreds of millions of dollars of damage.
Because nothing justified their actions in our calculus, nothing could contradict the merit of ours.(Bill
Ayers, Fugitive Days, quoted in "Radical Chic Resurgent", by Timothy Ash.)
The false analogy here is between a) the manner in which cars kill people and b) the manner in which Chlordane kills people.
While both do kill they kill in very dissimilar ways and in very different contexts. Cars themselves don’t kill, it is reckless
drivers who kill whereas Chlordane itself kills people. Secondly alternatives exist to pesticides such as Chlordane where
presently, for most of us, there are no other alternatives to using cars. So the effects on daily life of outlawing Chlordane are
clearly different from outlawing cars. The appeal to authority fallacy here is that Tom de Lay, who argued against a ban on
Chlordane, owns an extermination business and thus he will benefit personally if there is no ban.
2) "It is OK to steal from department stores; they rip us off all the time."
3) "It is completely justified for me to steal his bike; someone else stole mine."
3. Fallacy of Composition
An associated fallacy with false analogy (and ambiguity) is the fallacy of composition: It is a fallacy to
state that what is true of the individuals or parts of a group is also necessarily true of the group itself.
This is a fallacy because before we can say what is true of a group we need to know more than simply
what is true of the individuals that belong to the group.
Example: It’s ridiculous to say that methane cow emissions are a significant source of VO2 air pollution
in the Central Valley! Why if you put a person and cow in a garage for a week, the person would be fine
and suffer no ill effects from the “methane!”
While it’s probably true that a single cow in a confined space is not going to cause health problems for a
person, this alone does not show that the cumulative effect of 1.6 million central valley cows will have no
adverse effect on air pollution. More information is needed
4. Fallacy of Division
Another associated fallacy with ambiguity is the fallacy of division: what is true of the group is then
automatically true of all the individuals or parts that belong to that group. We need more information to
make such a claim than simply what the group is like. Stereotypes are related to this fallacy.
Example: Since the United States is the strongest military power in the world it then follows that each
individual citizen of the United States is stronger than every other person in the rest of the world.
C. Danger: Fallacies of Generalization (4)
1. Hasty Generalization (Small Sample)
A is true about population 1 because A is true about individual example 1 who is a member of population
1, where individual example 1 is too small to be representative of population 1.
This is the fallacy of generalizing about a population based upon a sample that is too small to be
representative. If the population is varied and contains differences, then the sample needs to be large
enough to represent the population's variability. With a completely homogeneous population, a sample of
one is sufficiently large, so it is impossible to put an absolute lower limit on sample size. Rather, sample
size depends directly upon the variability of the population; the more heterogeneous a population, the
larger the sample required. For instance, people tend to be quite variable in their political opinions, so that
public opinion polls need fairly large samples to be accurate.
Suppose that you are cooking a pot of spaghetti, and you fish out a single strand to test for doneness. If it
is done, then you conclude that all of the spaghetti in the pot is done. Here, your sample is one strand of
spaghetti, and the population is the entire potful of pasta. Have you committed the fallacy of Hasty
This is a familiar type of inference that most of us engage in whenever we cook something, for instance,
when we taste a pot of soup to test whether it is sufficiently seasoned by tasting a single spoonful. We
don't feel it necessary to test several spoonfuls because we have every reason to believe that the spoonful
we test is representative of the whole pot of soup. In the same way, a single strand of spaghetti can be
representative of a whole pot of noodles.
The reason why these kinds of inference can work is because spaghetti is mass-produced, and every
noodle from the same box is virtually identical to all the others. Moreover, if we put a whole boxful of
spaghetti into a pot of boiling water, we can be pretty sure that all of them are being cooked for the same
amount of time and at the same rate. It is in this way that we can know that the single noodle we test is a
representative noodle; that is, it is like all the other noodles in the pot in terms of doneness.
How do such inferences go wrong? Let's return to the soup example: suppose that you season the soup by
sprinkling spices onto its surface, but that you forget to stir the pot. Then, if you take your test spoonful
from the top of the soup, without stirring, it is unlikely that it will be representative. Instead, you are
likely to get much more of the spices in that spoonful than you would get from the bottom of the pot. If
you fail to notice this, and conclude from your sample that the soup is sufficiently spicy, then you will
have committed the fallacy of Hasty Generalization. You will probably be disappointed later that the soup
is not flavorful enough. This is why we stir a pot of soup after seasoning it, and before tasting it, so that
the spices will be evenly distributed throughout the liquid, and a single spoonful will be representative of
the entire pot.
MC – All individuals of population A have characteristic B
P1 – A few individuals or samples of population A have characteristic B (where ―few‖ is
usually 20 samples or less)
Example: Don’t travel to Mexico ever. After all on my first trip to Mexico this month my wallet was
stolen. Note: In the above MC-P form, ―A‖ = All future trips to Mexico; ―B‖ = theft of personal
Under what conditions is this a fallacy? This is always a bad argument or fallacy because we are given
insufficient evidence to believe the MC.
2. Biased Sample
When a given sample in a generalization is not representative of its stated population. The sample is
biased because it has not been randomly selected from the population.
N% of sample S has characteristic C. (Where S is unrepresentative of the population P.)
Therefore, N% of population P has characteristic C.
MC – All or most individual things or people of population A have the characteristic C.
P1 – A given sample of population A has characteristic C
Under what conditions is this a fallacy? This is always a bad argument or fallacy because we are given
insufficient evidence to believe the MC.
EXAMPLE: "The Literary Digest, which began its famous straw poll with the 1916 presidential campaign, mailed out
millions of mock ballots for each of its surveys. ...The results that poured in during the months leading up to the [1936
presidential] election showed a landslide victory for Republican Alf Landon. In its final tabulation, the Digest reported that out
of the more than two million ballots it had received, the incumbent, Roosevelt, had polled only about 40 percent of the straw
votes. ...Within a week it was apparent that both their results and their methods were erroneous. Roosevelt was re-elected by an
even greater margin than in 1932. ... The Digest's experience conclusively proved that no matter how massive the sample, it
would produce unreliable results if the methodology is flawed... The mailing lists the editors used were from directories of
automobile owners and telephone subscribers...[which] were clearly weighted in favor of the Republicans in 1936. People
prosperous enough to own cars have always tended to be somewhat more Republican than those who do not, and this was
particularly true in [the] heart of the Depression...The sample was massive, but it was biased toward the affluent, and in 1936
many Americans voted along economic lines." (Michael Wheeler, Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics: The Manipulation of Public
Opinion in America (Liveright, 1976), pp. 67-9.)
In the above example the sample is clearly large enough: two million. (In fact polling with an accuracy of
96% on voting behavior of millions of U.S. citizens is routinely done using a sample of only 1,000 or
less). So the above example is clearly NOT a hasty generalization. But it is a bad generalization
nonetheless because the sample is biased. The sample, car and telephone owners in 1916 was not
representative of the population of voters in 1916 since wealthy Americans owned most of the cars at that
time and wealthy Americans are much more likely to vote Republican than Democrat.
A person takes an oversimplified (i.e. – vague and ambiguous) trait that has been popularly associated to a
group of people and assumes that it is true of every member of that group. Stereotypes use language to
reduce complex individuals to simple categories. Often stereotypes are then used to make conclusions
about a specific individual from that group as well.
MC – Person X has Y negative trait.
P1 – Every person of group A has Y negative trait
P2 – Person X is a member of group A.
Under what conditions is this a fallacy? This is a bad argument or fallacy if the first premise above,
Every person of group A has Y negative trait is a false premise. Because we humans are complex and, as
individuals quite diverse and unique (even within a given population or group), it is perhaps unimaginable
that any group exists where every individual possesses the same negative trait.
EXAMPLES: 1) He has long hair so he undoubtedly takes drugs.
2) Since you are an 18-year old male you are a high risk on the highway.
D. Concepts you need to know from chapter eight
1. Analogical Reasoning
5. False Analogy Fallacy
6. Two Wrongs Fallacy
7. Fallacy of Composition/Division Fallacies
8. Hasty Generalization
9. Biased Sample
IX. CAUSAL REASONING
In causal reasoning, causal claims (or hypotheses or causal explanations) are not simply asserted but
instead are argued for with supporting premises. Causal claims provide an explanation of why something
happened and causal arguments tell us why we should believe this causal explanation. While we are free
to use common sense in constructing causal arguments (and often we do this), there do exist a couple
―gold standard‖ forms of causal arguments that you should know about: relevant-difference reasoning,
common-thread reasoning. Scientific experiments that incorporate statistical analysis is one example of
Let’s review briefly the definition of a causal claim (as introduced to you earlier on page Error!
Bookmark not defined.Error! Bookmark not defined.). A causal claim is a claim with the form, ―B-
event causes A-event effect‖ or ―A-event effect because B-event cause.‖ A necessary, but not sufficient,
condition for B-event causing A-event is that B-event precedes A-event. If you think that this is a
necessary and sufficient condition then you will be committing the post hoc fallacy below (see page 93)!
Next, let’s examine some examples of relevant-difference and common-thread reasoning used to justify
belief in a given causal claim:
A. Relevant-Difference Reasoning
Let’s start with the form above of a causal claim – ―A event is caused by B event.‖ Now, how do we
know if B event really, truly is the cause for A event? Relevant-differnece reasoning says that, given
multiple similar situations, B-event is most likely the cause for A-event if B-event only shows up in
situations where A-event appears and… that B-event does not appear when A does not occur.
1) Given multiple similar situations with multiple events or phenomena (A-event, B-event, C-event, etc.)
2) The effect, A-event, occurs only in situations in which the supposed cause, B-event, also occurs.
3) When the effect, A-event, does not occur, neither does the B-event ―cause.‖
In other words, given the appearance of an effect in one situation but not in other similar situations, does
the appearance of the effect correspond to the appearance of another event, the cause, that is only found
when the effect also occurs? Is the only relevant-difference between situations that the cause is, or is not
We could also diagram the form of relevant-difference reasoning:
MC – B-event is a suspected cause for A-event effect.
P1 – W, X, Y, Z, etc. are similar situations.
P2 – A-event effect only occurs in situation W.
P3 – B-event cause only occurs in situation W.
1. Controlled Cause to Effect Experiments
In controlled cause to effect experiments, a random sample of a large population is itself randomly
divided into two groups: 1) an experimental group, all of whose members are exposed to a suspected
causal factor, C, and 2) a control group, whose members are all treated exactly as the members of the
experimental group, except that they are not exposed to C. Both groups are then compared with respect
to the frequency of some effect, E. If the difference, d, in the frequency of E in the two groups is
sufficiently large, then C may justifiably be said to cause E in the population.
The basic principles of this seemingly complicated experiment are a matter of common sense. You have
two groups that are essentially alike, except that the members of one group are exposed to the suspected
causal agent. If the effect is then found to be sufficiently more frequent in that group, you conclude that
the suspected causal agent does indeed cause the effect in question.45
Experimental group – the sample of the target population whose members are all exposed to the
suspected causal agent.
Control group – the sample of the target population whose members are treated exactly as the members
of the experimental group are except that they are not exposed to the suspected causal agent.
C – the suspected causal agent
E- the effect whose cause is being investigated
D – the difference in the frequency of this effect in the experimental group and in the control group.
Below, is a table that gives some approximations for how large the sample group and frequency ―d‖ must
be in order to make good causal inferences.
Approximate Statistically Significant d’s at 95% Confidence Level (.05 d)
Number of individuals in the Percentage difference (d) between
Experimental Group (assumes that the measured effect in Experimental and
Control Group is of similar size as the Control groups that d must exceed to
Experimental Group) be Statistically Significant (i.e. – a 95%
certainty that C is the cause)
Moore and Parker, Critical reasoning, 8th edition.
Here is a diagram of a controlled cause to effect experiment:
Diagram of Controlled Cause-to-Effect Experiment
Sample of Target
agent that is added to
d = Measurement of difference in frequency
of effect, , between experimental and control
And below is an MC-P diagram of this ―GOLD standard‖ for experimental reasoning, the Controlled
cause-to-effect experiment.. Note that the target = claim that is made in the conclusion (MC)
MC – Suspected Cause, B-event, is the cause of effect A-event in the given target
P/SC1 – It is 95% likely that B-event is the cause of A-event in sample Z1 of
P2 – The sample of the target population is split into two randomly
distributed groups: the experimental group, ____ # of members and
the control group, ____ # of members.
P3 – The experimental group has ―cause‖ B-event added to it by the
P4 – Cause ―B-event‖ is not added to the control group.
P5 – The effect A-event occurs ____ % more often (the frequency
difference, ―d‖) in the experimental group than in the control group.
See the table above for the numbers required for P2 and P5 in order to achieve 95%
.likelihood that suspected Cause B-event is indeed the cause..
Or we may say that it is ―statistically significant‖ or a 5%-or-less chance that B-event, by ―coincidence,‖ correlates so
frequently in the study with effect A-event…
2. Non-Experimental Cause-to-Effect Experiments
It’s not always possible to run a controlled cause to effect experiment. Below is the diagram for a non-
experimental cause to effect experiment. Basically the only difference is that the cause, C, is not added to
the sample experimental group by the researchers but is already present. Since there is less control by
researchers for stray variables (did they really identify the cause?), this experiment I term the “SILVER
Thus, the MC/P diagram is identical to the controlled cause to effect experiment above EXCEPT that P3
is changed to: ―cause B-event is already present in the experimental group.‖ The cause is not ―added‖
by the researchers.‖ P4 is slightly changed to: ―Cause B-event is not present in the control group.‖
B. Common-thread reasoning
Given a number of situations or occurrences where whenever effect A-event appears, B-event appears as
well, B-event is a possible cause for A-event.
MC – B-event is the suspected, possible cause for A-event effect.
P1 – R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z, etc. are similar situations
P2 – A-event effect occurs in situations R, S, T, U.
P3 - B-event ―cause‖ occurs in situations – R, S, T, U
P4 – Neither A-event or B-event occur in similar situations V, W, X, Y, Z
(Link P1, P2, P3, P4)
1. Non-Experimental Effect to Cause Experiments
In this case the effect is already present and researchers must work backwards to try and determine
the cause by seeing if they can measure a suspected cause more often in the experimental group than
the control group. Since even less control is possible here because none of the variables are under
direct control of the researchers, I give this the ―Bronze‖ medal standard. Ideally the results of such
experiments would be then subjected to one of the more rigorous experiments above.
MC – Suspected Cause, B-event, is the cause of effect A-event in the given target
P/SC1 – It is 95% likely that B-event is the cause of A-event in sample Z1 of
P2 – The sample of the target population is split into two groups: a
non-randomly distributed experimental group, ____ # of members and
a randomly distributed control group, ____ # of members.
P3 – All members of the experimental group display A-event effect.
P4 – None of the members of the control group display the effect, A-
P5 – The supposed cause, B-event, occurs ____ % more often (the
frequency difference, ―d‖) in the experimental group than in the
Or we may say that it is ―statistically significant‖ or a 5%-or-less chance that B-event, by ―coincidence,‖ correlates so
frequently in the study with effect A-event…
C. Scientific Method
D. Danger - Causal Fallacies (5)
1. Anecdotal Evidence Fallacy (a type of post hoc fallacy)
Event 1 causes event 2 for no other reason than the fact that event 1 precedes event 2. (Correlation ≠
MC – Suspected Cause, C, is likely the cause of effect E in the given target
P1 – In a single sample event 1 of population Z, ―cause‖ C preceded ―effect‖ E.
P2 – In a single sample event 2 of population Z, ―cause‖ C preceded ―effect‖ E.
MC – Suspected Cause, C, is not the cause of effect E in the given target population
P1 – In a single sample event 1 of population Z, ―cause‖ C occurred but
―effect‖ E did not occur.
P2 – In a single sample event 1 of population Z, ―cause‖ C occurred but
―effect‖ E did not occur.
2. False or Questionable Cause
(Alternate cause more likely or plausible cause)?Given causal hypothesis, A is the cause of B, a more
likely cause exists, say C, for the cause of B. A person claims or assumes that one thing causes something
else or is responsible for something else happening without giving sufficient evidence that it is in fact the
FORM 1: A because B (where the inference is a premise as causal explanation) BUT C is an equal or
more likely cause for A than B. (or where C+B together are more likely than B alone).
Strictly speaking since causal explanations are not arguments, we cannot translate this fallacy into
1) My classmate drank two gallons of coffee last night while studying and got an A on her exam.
Evidently the caffeine caused her to ace the exam.
2) She got an "A" in the class; she must have a lot of natural ability for that subject.
2. Slippery Slope (Causal Version)
The slippery slope fallacy argues that acceptance of one type of controversial action or idea will
inevitably lead to a negative action or state of affairs. The slippery slope fallacy argues that one will slide
from A to Z via the intermediate steps B through Y (the "slope"). The smallness of each step makes it
Note: This type of argument is not always in error, but the strength of the argument is inversely
proportional to the number of steps between A and Z, and directly proportional to the causal explanatory
strength of the cause and effect relationships between each step. If there are many intervening steps, and
the causal connections between them are weak, or even unknown, then the resulting argument will be very
FORM: If controversial action or idea A is permitted, then by a gradual series of small steps through B,
C... X, Y, eventually a clearly negative event, Z, will be permitted as well. Since we should not permit or
accept Z, we should not permit or accept A.
MC – Do not do (or permit) action ―A‖
P/SC1 – If A happens then D will happen.
P2 – If A happens then B will happen.
P3 – If B happens then C will happen.
P4 – If C happens then D will happen.
P5 – D is obviously a horrible event.
Note: there can be a longer, or in few cases a shorter, chain of conditionals (i.e. – from A to B to C to D
to E to F, etc.)
Under what conditions is this a fallacy? This argument is a fallacy if at least one of the conditionals is a
false or questionable premise.
EXAMPLE: "If today you can take a thing like evolution and make it a crime to teach it in the
public schools, tomorrow you can make it a crime to teach it in the private schools, and next year
you can make it a crime to teach it in the church. At the next session you can ban books and the
newspapers. Ignorance and fanaticism are ever busy, indeed feeding, always feeding and gloating
for more. Today it's the public school teachers, tomorrow the private. The next day the preachers
and the lecturers, the magazines, the books, the newspapers. After awhile, your honor, it is the
setting of man against man, creed against creed, until the flying banners and beating drums are
marching backwards to the glorious ages of the sixteenth century when bigots lighted fagots to
burn the man who dared to bring any intelligence, and enlightenment, and culture to the human
mind." (Clarence Darrow, cited in Stephen Jay Gould's Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes, p. 278.)
3. Nontestability - falsifiability
If a causal claim cannot be falsified – that is, one cannot set up an experiment such that if the experiment
repeatedly fails, one must conclude that one’s causal hypothesis is inadequate, then the causal claim is
meaningless. Also, if one cannot even imagine a test for the supposed cause then the causal explanation is
nontestable and thus meaningless as a causal claim.
.4. Confusing explanations with excuses:
Explanations are claims that already accept that the effect is ―true‖ or occurring. So the issue is not
whether the effect is ―true‖ but whether or not the given cause is the true cause. Explanations seek to tell
us why the effect occurred by giving us the causes.
Excuses are arguments that use explanations in order to persuade us to believe something else. The issue
with excuses is not whether or not C caused E but whether or not we should accept that behavior. The
problem with excuses is that they try to pretend that they are only explanations when in fact they are using
explanations as premises to justify some other, non-explanatory, claim.
E. Concepts you need to know from chapter nine
1. Relevant-difference reasoning
2. Common-thread reasoning
3. Controlled Cause to Effect Experiments
4. Non-experimental cause to effect experiments
5. Non-experimental effect to cause studies
6. Scientific method
7. Ad Hoc/Anectodal Evidence Fallacy
8. False Cause Fallacy
9. Slippery Slope Fallacy
X. INTERNAL VS. EXTERNAL ARGUMENT
A. Critical reasoning Attitudes:
1. Principle of Fidelity
As discussed above, when ―photographing‖ an author’s argument, we try to pay careful attention to the
text and not to distort the claims or logical relationships in the argument.
Judgment call. - between fidelity (our desire to be faithful to the author’s words) versus charity (our
desire to be charitable to the author and add implicit premises, omit or paraphrase vague/ambiguous terms
in order to improve our understanding of the author’s reasoning.)
2. Principle of Charity
In addition to the principle of charity we try to give the author the benefit of the doubt when the structure
of the argument is unclear. Sometimes this also includes helping the author to make their strongest case
instead of simply focusing on the weakest elements of the author’s argument. When diagramming we
should help the author construct the strongest argument possible before we evaluate the argument.
3. Nitpicking and Quibbling: Getting in Touch with your Inner Gray Area
Critical reasoning that is practical, that is, that we employ in our everyday life, necessarily involves gray
areas since life itself has many gray areas. Informal logic and practical critical reasoning are not black
and white. That is, there are many situations where we have only probable, not absolute, certainty. The
Premise Test is a good example of this – a good reason to believe is somewhat vague – how good is
good? Or vagueness and ambiguity discussed below – most words and certainly most arguments contain
vague and ambiguous terms and thus if one wanted one could unfairly quibble, nitpick and raise
theoretical but unhelpful counterexamples to a given line of reasoning. Quibbling is unhelpful because,
unlike demons and God(s), we do not live forever. We just don’t have the time to parse out every possible
counterexample to a proposed argument, inference, or implication. So we make our best effort and then
move on, returning perhaps when we meet a reasonable counterargument to our views. So, please ignore
the bizarre or wildly or vanishingly small probable events when evaluating another’s inferences or
B. Internal Evaluation of an Argument
The prior chapters on deductive, inductive, and causal reasoning discuss in some detail how to go about
evaluating an argument based on its internal or intrinsic properties. Do the premises give on a good,
justified reason to believe the conclusion? Are the premises true? When you evaluate an argument you
should begin by considering these factors. Then you may consider an argument’s dialectical strength.
C. External - Dialectical Evaluation of an Argument
While an internal evaluation of an argument is essential, a dialectical evaluation can also be quite useful
when evaluating an argument:
Dialectic-Test: does the argument successfully fend off all counter-argument and counter-
example challenges raised against it by humans, other intelligent extraterrestrials, or ourselves?
If it cannot then it is a bad argument.
This implies I suppose that, if we construct what we think is a strong argument we should not keep it to
ourselves but instead let it outside to play and perhaps get stomped on. Then, even if damaged by a
counter-argument, we are free to repair it and make it stronger until it can successfully defend itself
against all counter-arguments.
By the way, arguments that criticize another argument are termed critic arguments. The argument that
you criticize is a target argument.
1. Counter-Example Argument Test
The counter-example implication test can be used to dialectically test an argument. The test builds on the
implication test but adds what philosophers call a model. A model which is any actual or possible state
of how things are for which there are a set of claims that can represent this model; that is, a set of claims,
some false, some true, some indeterminate that refer to the model.
Example: Today is Wednesday is a state of how things are and can be represented. ―Tomorrow is
Thursday‖ would be true relative to this model and "Tomorrow is Friday" would be false relative to this
model. "De Anza is on Stevens Creek" is indeterminate relative to this model (it simply does not apply to
A strong argument is one in which no models have yet been found in which the conclusion is false while
the grounds are all true. Note how similar this is to the implication test - "the grounds imply the
conclusion if it is very unlikely for the conclusion to be false while the grounds are true." Not so different.
So why introduce another concept, "models" here? What is the advantage of that?
Well, how does one go about deciding if the implication test fails? How do you know if it is possible for
the conclusion to be falsified while the grounds are still true? Well obviously you have to go looking for a
conclusion that contradicts the given conclusion yet follows from the same grounds or premises. The
concept of models refers to this search for a contradictory conclusion that in part follows from the same
premises as the non-contradictory conclusion. It is also called a model because it may be only
hypothetical and not actually exist. As long a the model can possibly exist then it is a relevant way of
testing an argument.
But there is a problem here: how do you know when you've considered all possible models? Well, since
there may be an infinite number of possible models, we can never be 100% certain. Thus it’s important
for arguments to seek out opponents. The longer the argument survives in the ―National Argument
League,‖ the more robust or stronger it is. Since, as individuals, we have limited experiences of the world,
it’s preferable to expose our arguments to others who might be able to think of creative counter-examples
that we have not yet considered. Then we are free to repair our arguments and send them out again.
Sometimes this process is called the intersubjective theory of truth. Socratic dialogues are an excellent
example of this process in work. Examples that you might enjoy reading are the Euthyphro, the Apology,
the Crito, and the Phaedo, not to mention Book I of The Republic by Plato.
Counter example argument test: if there is a model in which the original conclusion is false, even
though all the grounds are true then the argument fails.
Notice what is "easy" about this: how many models must one find to show that an argument is bad or
weak? That's right - just one. So it is much easier to determine an argument to be bad than good. And
once it has been determined to be bad, the degree of certainty is 100%, not 99% or 98%. What a relief.
Perhaps that’s why it’s easier to find fault than favor with the things of life.
A counterexample is simply a model that includes all the premises in the original model but
ADDS some further premises so that a conclusion that is contradictory to the original
conclusion follows. Two claims are contradictory if both cannot be true at the same time and
in the same respect (if two claims cannot be true OR false then the claims are contraries).
Note: if the grounds you add are only possible, but not actual situations then a counterexample does not
show that the conclusion is definitely false, only that it could be false if the grounds are true. A counter
example does however show that the argument is weak or bad. By the way, when the counterexample to
an argument is actual and not merely imagined by you, then you can infer that the conclusion is false as
well as the argument bad.
Don't go overboard though and create wild, science fiction, implausible models of true premises and false
Do not confuse refuting an argument with proving that it has a false conclusion. An
argument may very well contain a conclusion that is true but is not well supported by the
See if you can take one of the short arguments from our homework that we deemed to be a
“good” argument and find a counter-example for it following the instructions above. If you
can do this, type out your argument via MC/P format and turn in to me you’ll receive extra
credit depending on how good your counter example is. See footnote 5 for extra credit policy.
D. Recap: Concepts you need to know from chapter ten
1. Principle of Fidelity
2. Principle of Charity
3. Counter-example argument test
4. Dialectical evaluation
XI. EVALUATING PREMISES
After diagramming arguments, we turn to evaluating arguments to determine whether we should accept
them or not or whether the issue requires more discussion. It’s most efficient to start by examining basic
premises because if a basic premise is found to be ―not-true‖ then the P/SCs that are based on the basic
premise fail as well since the P/SCs rely on the premise-test: assuming that B is true is B a good reason to
believe A? If the basic premise can be shown to be not true then the entire line of P/SCs up to the MC
fails as well. If on the other hand the basic premises are confirmed as true then we can turn to evaluating
the P/SCs using the premise-test.
A. Objective vs. Subjective Claims
The first thing to do when determining the truth of claims is to figure out whether a claim is an objective
claim about a factual matter or a subjective claim that is pure opinion. The reason why this distinction is
important is that if a claim is a subjective claim or pure opinion, then it’s pointless to try and prove it right
or wrong, since subjective claims are always true (unless a person is lying to oneself or is mentally ill).
On the other hand objective claims can theoretically be determined to be true or false and so it is
worthwhile to debate or look for evidence for these sorts of claims.
Too often people make the mistake of thinking that an objective claim is subjective and then they simply
ignore the debate thinking that both sides are ―equally true.‖ This is a mistake and one that you should be
An example of an objective claim is, ―The building is made of wax.‖ An example of a subjective claim is,
―I am feeling hungry right now.‖
1. To say how things are in the world: Objective claims
To say that something is an objective claim is to say that what makes something true or false are
conditions that exist outside of you. In other words, a claim is objective if what make that claim true or
false are conditions that exist independently of your evil little biases, feelings, or opinions about that
thing. The truth or falsity depends on something in the object world outside of you the subject. Thus we
say, ―objective.‖ In other words its truth or falsity is decided separately from your evil little biases.
Falsifiability test: One procedure by which we can decide if a claim is objective and meaningful is
called the ―falsifiability test.‖ Given a claim X, can we set up a test such that if X does not pass the test,
we would know X to be false? If we can conceive of such a test (even if we don’t have the technology to
conduct the test or experiment) then X is a meaningful, objective claim.
A fact is an objective claim that has been proven true by an accepted community standard – usually that
2. To say how things are with myself: Subjective claims
Subjective claims, on the other hand, are simply expressions of personal preference or taste and thus their
truth or falsity is subjective. That is, their truth or falsity is dependent on what the subject (you or I)
thinks. Aesthetic judgments are usually classified as subjective claims. Not surprisingly, there is much
debate about whether moral claims (below) should be classified as subjective or objective claims. In this
class, you may use moral claims as objective claims provided you are able to give some reasonable
support for your moral claims.
3. Why it’s important to distinguish between objective and subjective claims
It’s important to be able to distinguish between objective and subjective claims especially since their
language form can be the same. For example, if I say, ―Goiabada jam and cheese is the best desert
imaginable,” this appears to be an objective claim although it actually is a subjective claim. Words like
best imply that this person thinks that independent of any particular person’s opinion, Goiabada jam is the
best tasting desert for all people or beings in the universe. On the other hand it’s likely that what the
person really means is best for me, not best for all. When it’s not clear whether a statement is objective or
subjective we can end up in silly disputes such as trying to resolve the issue of whether it’s true that
Goiabada is indeed the best jam in the universe. Another reason it is important to distinguish between
objective and subjective claims is that objective claims can be tested to determine their truth or falsity
whereas subjective claims cannot be tested in this way.
Here’s another example: The sun is made of hot cheese. This is clearly an objective claim because to say
that the sun is made of hot cheese is to say that it is true independently of what you or I think about the
sun’s composition. Of course this objective claim, as stated, is false since we know that the sun is made of
hot gases and in fact we know this because, with the rise of science in the past couple centuries, we found
ways to test this claim and determine its truth value.
Students often make the mistake of thinking that all matters of controversy involve subjective claims and
since subjective claims cannot be externally tested they assume that controversies cannot be evaluated.
But most controversies involve objective claims and therefore we can imagine procedures by which we
can test the claims to determine which claim is true and which is false.
Another danger students make is to say, ―Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion.‖ Yes, we have the
right to our opinions but this doesn’t mean that all opinions have equal truth-value or that our opinion is
true or morally correct. It’s really irrelevant to critical reasoning to point out that we have the right, by
law, to our opinions, or that the police cannot force us to give up our opinion. Often we use this phrase
because we just don’t want to discuss an issue anymore. I think it would be better if we just stated directly
that we don’t want further discussion. While people have equal worth, it doesn’t follow that our opinions
have equal truth-value.
Many people make the mistake of thinking that all opinions are subjective claims
and thus no can say that your opinion is wrong. Opinions can be either subjective or
objective claims and if your opinion is an objective claim it might very well be shown
to be false – or true. An opinion is simply a belief that does not yet have the status of
knowledge or justified true belief whereas for example a fact does have this status. It’s
better to think of opinions as tentative beliefs rather than subjective claims.
B. True or Justified Premises
1. Common Sense
Those things about the world that are common to all of our human experience and thus all should know.
Example: We have only one planet. If we destroy our natural resources then we are destroying
the very foundation we need to live
2. Scientific Fact-Claims
Claims that meet the criteria of the scientific method and peer review by the scientific community.
Briefly, the scientific method states that claim X is a true fact-claim if, via experimentation, results occur
that predicts facts. Next the experimental results must be repeatable by other scientists and the
experimental design and theory scrutinized through a peer review process.
Example: Human beings evolved from apes.
Scientific objective claims include physical causal explanations which are usually taken to be true.
Physical explanations are explanations of physical events in terms of physical causes as given by the
sciences (physics, geology, chemistry, etc). Since these sorts of explanations must pass rigorous criteria
before being accepted as fact we can consider these sorts of explanations to be true.
Examples: Humans descended from apes because of the accidental forces of natural selection.
Objects fall to the earth when dropped because of the pull of the gravitational force on these
3. Subjective claims
As long as the author of a subjective claim is being honest or is not severely delusional, subjective claims
are true by definition. That is, since the truth of subjective claims depends on the mental or emotional
state of the subject or author, such claims are always true.
4. Credible Authority: Experts, personal observation, and justified truths
In the real world we cannot and do not go around challenging every claim that could be possibly
challenged. We choose our battles. And within those battles we must judiciously choose what to
challenge and what not to challenge. We don’t need to challenge claims from experts when there is no
reason to suspect foul play, bias, or incompetence by the expert. We don’t also need to doubt the view of
someone who is suitably situated.
Examples of suitably situated persons: a witness or someone who has lots of experience or
We call claims by people in these situations presumption of truth – that is, we ought to accept the author’s
word as true unless there is a good or explicit evidence to doubt, reason to doubt (see appeal to authority
fallacy). And yes, sometimes our senses fool us and thus if a claim carries a presumption of truth, the
truth may still not be guaranteed. But we can be said to have justified truth, as long as we have no
explicit evidence to the contrary. The opposite of presumption of truth is burden of proof – these
premises require additional support before we can consider them to be ―true.‖
Here are some general standards and rules of thumb to use in determining how credible (worthy of belief)
a claim is:
1. Can you identify the source of the claim? If you cannot identify the source of the claim then If the
source is simply what the person has seen or observed personally (or what you have personally
seen or observed) then this is a 1st person observation. 1st person observations are usually credible
– as long as the source is not lying or delusional.
2. If the claim conflicts with your own personal observations then you are right to be suspicious of
the claim. This alone however is not a reason to reject the claim. Why?
a. Your own personal observations might be a small, biased sample in relation to the target in
question. If so then you should not rely on your own personal observations.
b. Secondly you might not be so good in your observation-methods. Or the source might not
be so good. Thus it’s helpful to know how good the observer is.
c. Third, you might be letting personal bias, wishful thinking, or prejudice filter your
observations. Instead of observing what is right in front of your eyes you might instead be
observing your own filtering of what is right in front of your eyes. How filtered is your
3. If the claim conflicts with our background information then you are right to give it a ―low
plausibility‖ and thus reject the claim unless you hear of strong evidence to the contrary.
4. With respect to trusting experts, if the expert is credible then we can justifiably agree with the
claim. But what are the criteria for a credible expert?
a. The expert has knowledge pertaining to the claim in question.
i. They have an advanced degree – M.A., Ph.D. in the area in question. Their
advanced degree is from a reputable institution that is respected by the rest of the
ii. Experience – the expert has experience doing those things relevant to the claim that
b. The expert is truthful and not seeking to deceive.
i. The expert is not being funded nor accepting money from groups with an ―agenda‖
whose aim or goals just ―coincidentally‖ match the views put forth by the expert.
ii. The expert is not being rewarded with status or approval for his or her views.
c. Claims that meet the criteria of the scientific method and peer review by the scientific
community. Briefly, the scientific method states that claim X is a true fact-claim if, via
experimentation, results occur that predicts facts. Next the experimental results must be
repeatable by other scientists and the experimental design and theory scrutinized through a
peer review process.
C. Questionable Premises
Questionable premises are premises whose truth-value cannot be determined. The premise is written in
such a way that no rational person – even an expert authority – is able to determine whether the given
premise is true or false. When evaluating arguments you may reject all premises whose truth-value cannot
be known due to vagueness and ambiguity. In these cases there usually is a problem of meaningfulness. A
claim may appear to mean something but in fact fail to carry meaning because it’s not clear what reality
the claim’s symbol-words are describing or prescribing. If a claim is meaningless then there is no possible
way to judge it true or false and thus we can reject these claims as vague and/or ambiguous as discussed
above in Chapter II.
Some premises require additional support before we can consider them to be true. We term this
requirement a burden of proof. Often in dialectical exchanges these premises are ―put on hold‖ until
further support is given for them.
D. False Premises
1. Premises that Contradict Established Facts, Expert Authorities, or Personal
Premises may be considered to be false if the premises contradict scientific facts, statements of expert
authorities, or your own personal sensory observation. (However, see appeal to authority fallacy for when
we can dismiss statements by authorities). The concept here is the principle of non-contradiction. A
cannot, at the same time and in the same respect, be identical to not A.
2. Falsifiable Claims
A nifty, ―indirect‖ way to show that a claim is false is to take the premise in question, make it a basic
premise and then, assuming it to be true, build a strong argument with good inferences from the basic
premise that leads to a main conclusion that is either clearly false or absurd. If the inferences are good,
but the conclusion is clearly false or absurd then by default the basic premise is false.
If you can construct not just a strong but a valid argument with a false conclusion then you must, 100%
have a false basic premise (since the inferences are valid).
You can think of this as the reverse of argument diagramming where you begin by looking for the main
conclusion and then work downwards. With premise falsification you are starting with a basic premise
(the premise you intend to show false) and then work upwards to a clearly false main conclusion via
inferences that pass the Premise Test.
This is a good strategy when dealing with claims of principle or morality that you disagree with. Here,
one tries to show that holding to the principle or moral or fundamental value used in the target argument
has absurd consequences (consequences that would be unacceptable even to the person giving the target
argument). So the critic argues validly from the principle in question to a conclusion that is obviously
false. In philosophy this maneuver is called reductio ad absurdum.
Example: Let’s say I want to falsify the claim, Cars fly through the air.
First I make my basic premise the claim I seek to falsify and pretend that it’s true:
P2 – Cars fly through the air.
Next, I build an argument from the basic premise with inferences that pass the premise-test to a main
conclusion that is either absurd or clearly false:
MC – There is little freeway traffic anymore.
P/SC1 – Most people fly their cars to work instead of driving on the freeways.
P2 – Cars can fly through the air.
Here’s another. This time I’m seeking to falsify a morally related claim that, the money a person makes is
a reflection of their talent and effort:
MC – All people with high incomes work harder and are more talented than those who are poor.
P1 - The money that a person makes reflects their talent and effort
The MCs above in these two examples are clearly false but the inferences from the P to P/SC and P to
MC and P/SC to MC all pass the Premise-test. Right? Thus the only way that the MC can be false but the
P-tests are passed is if the basic P is false. (Note of course that categorical premises (all, none, always,
etc) are much, much easier to falsify than qualified P’s (some).
Note: you may link the basic premise to another basic premise but only if the second basic premise is
clearly true, for example a definition or conceptual reminder.
3. False Conditional Premises
A conditional is true only if there are no counterexamples in which the antecedent is true and the
consequent is false. If you can find a counterexample then the conditional is false. For example: If I am a
millionaire then I can afford to buy a 2004 Honda Civic. Since there are no counterexamples in which it
is true that I am a millionaire but false that I can afford to buy the Honda Civic, this is a true conditional.
How about: If I have eyes then I can see physical objects. Is that a true conditional?46
Note: Ignore the bizarre or wildly or vanishingly small probable events in considering whether one claim
implies another. Instead we have to rely on a vague, general sense of how things could be in order to
determine which possibilities to take seriously and which to set aside as too remote to deserve attention.
Thus experience helps one to think critically.
Well, what do you think? No, it’s not a true conditional because I can think of a counterexample in which it is true that I have eyes but
cannot see physical objects (the consequent is false but the antecedent true). The counterexample would be a person whose optic nerve has
been severed. They have eyes but cannot see.
E. Danger – Fallacies of Relevance & False Premises
1. Relativism/Subjectivism with respect to factual claims.
MC - Believe/Do (or reject/do not do) claim X.
P1 - If Y culture/person thinks it is true, Then X claim is true (SV: relativism/subjectivism of
P2 - Y culture/person thinks it is true.
Note: when it comes to moral or ethical claims, relativism may not be a fallacy OR... such claims may be
factual. This is a controversial topic and covered in more depth in chapter 12 and of course, Phil 111,
ethics... For the puruposes of the class I am combining relativism and subjectivism. Relativism usually
refers to cultural relativism whereas subjectivism always refers only to individuals ("individual
relativism = subjectivism)...
2. Wishful Thinking
MC - Believe (or reject) claim X.
P1 - If X makes you happy (or unhappy) then X is true (or false).
3. Appeal To Authority
Accepting the word of alleged authorities when there is good reason to doubt their word:
1) When the expert is speaking outside of their area of expertise
2) When our acceptance and subsequent action based upon the expert's conclusion or argument will
personally benefit the expert (benefit usually refers to economic, status, or pride)
MC – X claim is true.
P1 – Expert A says that X is true.
Under what conditions is this a fallacy? This argument is bad if the ―P‖, the expert claim, is a
questionable premise as stated above.
Example: Luan: ―Britney Spears says that it’s just peachy to get married for fun so I now think that
getting married is not really a serious thing.”
This would be an appeal to authority fallacy because Luan is basing his view on marriage on an
expert/authority who is speaking outside her or his area of expertise. Britney Spears is an expert on pop
teeny-agey music and public relations not on marriage and human relationships. A psychologist or your
local philosopher (?) would be a better authority to consult here.
4. Appeal to Popularity (Majority View or Jumping on the Bandwagon)
A person argues that because everyone, or many people think, believe, or do something, then it must be
correct or good. The appeal to popularity fallacy is committed whenever one argues for an idea based
upon an irrelevant appeal to its popularity. Advertising is a rich source of these, with many products
claiming to be "number 1" or "most popular," even though this is irrelevant to the product's merits.
FORM: A is correct simply because most people believe A. (Converse also is Appeal to Popularity: A is
incorrect because most people do not believe A)
MC – Claim A is true.
P1 – Most people do or believe A.
MC – Claim A is not true.
P1 – Most people do not do or believe A.
Under what conditions is this a fallacy? Appeal to popularity arguments are bad arguments because
more premises are required to lead a rational person to believe the main conclusion. There is insufficient
evidence given in appeal to popularity arguments.
These arguments are always bad unless it is the case that what makes claim A true is its belief or action
by most people in which case the argument may still be bad for a different reason – it may now be a
begging the question fallacy.
For example, The reason that Leonardo Di Caprio is a popular celebrity is because most moviegoers like
him. OK, so it is the belief by most people that he’s great that leads us to believe that he is popular. But is
this a begging the question fallacy? I think so.
Why then is the following an appeal to popularity fallacy?: Leonardo di Caprio is a great actor because
most people think so. This is not enough reason to believe he is a great actor because the masses generally
do not have good taste nor good expertise in determining the quality of acting. Instead we need to hear
from experts who judge acting. Uh oh, am I being elitist here? Is this true?
1) This is a best selling novel so it must be good.
2) That movie could not be very good; no one is going to see it.
Other versions/"cousins" of Appeal to Popularity: Argument from common practice, Argument from
MC - Believe/Do (or reject/do not do) claim X.
P1 - My group that I proudly belong to believes or rejects claim X.
Other versions/"cousins" - nationalism (group think on a national scale).
5. Appeal to Ignorance
In this fallacy on argues that X is the case because no one has proved that X is not the case. In other words
since we are ignorant of reasons that would disprove X, X must be true. Unfortunately (or fortunately),
the fact that we cannot disprove a claim is not itself a good reason to believe that claim. Good reasons are
good reasons to believe a claim not the absence of damning evidence. If we could prove things to be true
by pointing out that no one can prove the falsity of the claim we might end up believing some fairly
strange and absurd ideas. Can you prove that your mother was not abducted by aliens and impregnated
with an alien egg and gave birth to alien-you? No you cannot but (hopefully) this isn’t a good reason to
believe that you are an alien. Can you prove that I am not God secretly teaching here at De Anza in
disguise? No you cannot but I hope that doesn’t lead you to believe that I am God. But if you want to
think that way…
FORM: MC – X claim is true.
P1 – No one has yet proved that X claim is not true.
Under what conditions is this a fallacy? This argument form is always a bad argument because
insufficient evidence is provided for us to believe the MC.
1. Since you cannot prove that God does not exist, God must then exist.
2. Since you cannot prove that I did lie to you then I clearly did not lie to you.
Related fallacies: Misplacing the Burden of Proof
F. Recap: Concepts you need to know from chapter eleven
1. Objective claims
2. Subjective claims
3. Criteria for trusting expert authority
4. Falsifiable claims
5. False conditionals
6. Relativism/Subjectivism fallacy
7. Wishful thinking fallacy
8. Appeal to Authority fallacy
9. Appeal to Popularity fallacy
10. Appeal to Ignorance fallacy
A. Imply Vs. Infer
to imply: to have as a necessary part or effect; to suggest
to infer: to draw a conclusion
Only humans can infer; things cannot infer. Hence, if you fill in the blank with the verb "infer", then the
subject of the sentence must be a person. However, people can both imply and infer. When people imply
something, another person must be present. Do not assume other people are present unless explicitly
Fill in the blank with the correct form of "imply‖ or infer‖.
1. The row of trophies in her room ________________ that she played golf well.
2. On the basis of her examination, the doctor ________________ that the patient had a heart attack.
3. The fact that the workers were in debt ________________ that they could not stay out on strike for
4. His high grade-point average ________________ he studied hard.
5. The chef ________________ that he left the cake in the oven too long because it was burned.
6. The low interest rate ________________ that the economy is doing well.
7. His expensive clothes ________________ that he has money.
8. The fans ________________ that the Raiders would win when they saw how well they were playing.
9. Her bad back ________________ that she could not lift heavy objects.
10. A lingering cough often ________________ the presence of a bad cold.
11. The expression on her face ________________ that she was listening attentively.
12. The Israeli – Palestinian conflict has had many ________________ on relations among countries in
the Middle East.
13. Dark clouds generally ________________ rain.
14. A high rate of unemployment rate ________________ a rise in the crime rate.
15. Higher school costs ________________ fewer students can afford to attend.
16. She ________________ that her car was stolen when she saw that it was missing and remembered
that it was left unlocked.
17. George Bush ________________ that he should talk tough because of public feeling in the U.S.
18. The meteorologist ________________ that it would rain on the basis of the falling barometer.
19. The high divorce rate has ________________ a higher percentage of workingwomen.
20. The assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King and J.F. Kennedy have had many ________________ in
the area of American politics.
21. The detective's ________________ was correct concerning the identity of the murderer.
22. Studying hard does not necessarily ________________ receiving a high grade.
23. Rain in conjunction with a high tide generally ________________ a flood.
24. He ________________ the game would be postponed when he saw the rain.
25. The fact that the 49erss won ________________ that they were the better team.
26. On the basis of extensive studies, doctors have ________________ that a high rate of coffee
consumption increases the probability of having a heart attack.
27. After a careful study of the problem she ________________ the correct answer.
28. Her college degree ________________ that she could do this job.
29. Indonesia’s tacit support of the brutal suppression of the East Timorese by militias
________________ that the Indonesian government does not want to allow East Timor to democratically
choose to be independent and free.
30. His meager salary ________________ that he had to adopt a modest life style.
31. They ________________ that she was honest when they saw her return the lost wallet.
32. The fact that the U.S. government mined the harbor of Nicaragua in the 80’s ________________ that
it was willing to violate international law.
33. His high quiz scores ________________ that he understood the material.
34. Doctors ________________ that Iraq was using chemical warfare when they examined some of the
35. Freezing temperatures ________________ bad fruit crops.
36. Investments by Chevron, Nike, and other U.S. multinational corporations in Indonesia
________________ that these companies put profits ahead of moral concerns.
37. The 80’s Civil War in El Salvador ________________ that the U.S. received an influx of refugees.
38. They ________________ that Bush would win re-election because of his advantage as an incumbent.
B. Exercises: Premise vs. Explanations
Indicate whether each is a good inference (if it passes the premise or implication test), a causal
explanation (if it passes the causal explanation test), BOTH, or none. If a question is blank supply your
own sentence and then note whether your sentence example is P, E, B, or N.
Use the following notation in your answers:
P = ―B‖ is a premise only because ―B‖ passes the Premise Test but not the causal explanation test
E = ―B‖ is a causal explanation only because it passes the causal explanation test but does not pass the
B = ―B‖ is both a causal explanation AND a premise because it passes both tests.
N = ―B‖ is none because ―B‖ does not pass the premise nor the causal explanation test
1. _______ He ran five miles everyday because he had a heart condition.
2. _______ She played the violin because she loved music.
3. _______ We should lower school fees because everyone should have an equal opportunity to go to
4. _______ You should avoid walking on the streets alone at night because it is dangerous.
5. _______ He studied all night because he had a math test.
6. _______ ______________________________________________________________________
7. _______ You should jog because it is good for your health.
8. _______ She jogs because it is good for her health.
9. _______ It is raining outside because people are opening their umbrellas.
10. _______ She graduated from high school because she is enrolled at U.C. Santa Cruz and high school
graduation is a requirement for admission.
11. _______ She is a very generous person because she always gives money to those who need it.
12. _______ She saved her money because she liked new cars.
13. _______ This bread tastes awful because stale ingredients were used.
14. _______ She gets good grades because her grade-point average is 4.0.
15. _______ ______________________________________________________________________
16. _______ She gets straight A’s because she works hard in all her classes.
17. _______ He is a great tennis player because his mother gave him lessons when he was young.
18. _______ Michael Jordan was an outstanding basketball player because he won the league MVP 85
19. _______ He walks to work because he wants exercise.
20. _______ He walks to work because he wants to save money.
21. _______ ______________________________________________________________________
22. _______ She married him because she wanted financial security.
23. _______ She married him because this marriage certificate has their names on it.
24. _______ He became a professional athlete because he wanted to become rich.
25. _______ He sprained his ankle because he tripped on the stairs.
26. _______ He sprained his ankle because it is badly swollen and he cannot walk on it.
27. _______ ______________________________________________________________________
28. _______ George Bush will run again for President because he has just announced his candidacy.
29. _______ Costa Ricans and Brazilians are among the nicest people in the world because their society
emphasizes close family relations and healthy parenting.
30. ________ Costa Ricans in San Jose, Costa Rica and Brazilians in Rio de Janeiro are among the nicest
people in the world because in a worldwide comparative study, these two cities scored highest for
―unasked helpfulness toward strangers.‖
31. _________ The U.S. government has imposed an embargo on Cuba because Cuba nationalized
U.S. corporations after the revolution.
32. _______ ______________________________________________________________________
33. _______ The Republicans will try to water down the Clean Air Act because it costs big businesses
too much money.
34. _______ He did not go to school because his roommate was sick.
35. _______ President Bush is arguing that we need to create more jobs because he wants to boost his
36. _______ She is broke because she spent all her money on books.
37. _______ She will win the race because she has trained the best and has the best natural ability.
38. _______ The Parthenon is still standing in Athens because it was built of marble.
39. _______ He drank a lot of alcohol because he was often depressed.
40. _______ You should study regularly because cramming does not produce long-term learning.
41. _______ Paul Robeson had a linguistic ability because he knew 36 languages.
42. _______ She was a good baseball player because she was voted ―most valuable player.‖
43. _______ ______________________________________________________________________
44. _______ The U.S. was covertly supporting Bin Laden during Afghanistan’s struggle against the
Soviet Union in the 1980s because the CIA admitted secretly giving him aid.
45. _______ She did not have enough time to spend on her five classes because she worked 40 hours a
week and was supporting three children alone.
46. _______ Enrollment is down in the State Universities because tuition fees were raised.
47. _______ Willie Mays was a good baseball player because he was not only a superb hitter, but he
also played outfield exceptionally well and stole a lot of bases.
48. _______ ______________________________________________________________________
49. _______ Atsuko Tsuya is an awesome badminton player because he recently won a world
championship in badminton.
50. _______ It was a bad performance of Shakespeare’s play because none of the members of the cast
51. _______ People should use seat belts because seat belts often save lives.
52. _______ He got a ticket because he was driving 60 mph in a 55 mph zone.
53. _______ He bought a computer because he was a bad speller.
54. _______ ______________________________________________________________________
55. _______ He was hospitalized because he was in a car accident.
56. _______ She visited Alaska because she wanted to see wildlife.
57. _______ They could not buy a house because they had no money.
58. _______ He was selfish because he always thought only of himself.
59. _______ She played baseball because she loved sports.
60. _______ ______________________________________________________________________
61. _______ They went fishing because they needed food.
62. _______ She got a job because a bank hired her.
63. _______ He is broke because he spent all his money on looks.
D. Short Argument Exercises
Read each argument first and look up any words that you do not know. If you are not sure if you
know the definition of a word, then close your eyes and see if you can give a precise definition
fairly quickly. If you cannot you should look up the word in a dictionary because this will
empower you, since you’ll develop habits that will help you to understand how the world works
in a more precise and powerful way
Next circle all indicators, then bracket claims, and then, following the instructions in chapter 5,
diagram the following arguments and answer any related questions if asked to do so. Be sure to write
(or type) each premise and conclusion(s) completely.
If you think implicit or hidden claims are necessary then you may include them in your diagram. Write
P(I) or P/SC (I) to note that a claim is implicit.
Note: if you spot Stylistic Variants only include ONE of the variants in your diagram. The EASIEST
way to complete this assignment is to copy and paste each argument in your word processing program
and then rearrange the claims in MC/P order. Just be sure that each premise is a complete sentence.
(you might have to paraphrase a little to ensure the premise is a full sentence).
1. Circle all indicators
2. Underline [or bracket] and number the premises.
3. Double underline the MC (Main Conclusion)
4. If asked to diagram the argument, paraphrase any unclear claims.
1. A because B because C since D thus E.
2. A because B and because C since D but E hence F.
3. Complete this homework because it will raise your IQ by 300 points if you do.
4. Always wear a helmet when bicycling in the city since motorists often do not see you and because
accidents are common.
5. We should go for a hike in the Santa Cruz Mountains because the weather is perfect today and also
because exercise is good for us.
6. Alcohol is a common social drink in many countries. If you are drunk, then you should refrain
from driving. It is wrong to risk innocent people’s lives, and drunk driving certainly poses this threat.
7. Many people steal because they need money. Therefore, in order to decrease the crime rate, we
should provide everyone with a guaranteed income.
8. The minimum wage should not be lowered. The present rate is not sufficient for a single individual
to live comfortably, let alone one who has children. Vote "no" on the bill proposing to lower it.
9. You should eat nutritious food. Otherwise you'll be more susceptible to falling ill due to the fact
that junk food does not provide protein. So if you are not presently eating good food, you should
change your diet.
10. Because there is so much sex and violence on television and because our children watch so much
of it these days, it is undoubtedly negatively affecting them. Therefore shouldn’t we either raise the
level of these programs or discourage our youth from watching them?
11. ―Suppose Darwin’s theory is correct. If so, then there should be fossil evidence of transitional
species (e.g. a creature with proto-feathers). In fact there is no such evidence, so Darwin’s theory is
12. The U.S. today does not represent a genuine democracy. In a genuine democracy everyone’s vote
carries the same way weight. But by making a large campaign contribution, individuals and
corporations can in essence buy votes. Hence campaign contributions should be outlawed.
13. The world is so magnificent and wonderful, so full of variety and beauty that it is inconceivable
that it could have come about purely by chance. It is so intricate that a conscious hand must have been
involved in its creation. Therefore, God exists as the creator of the world.
14. If you saw a watch lying on the sand you would think that there must have been someone who
made the watch – a watchmaker. Similarly, we as human beings are so complicated and amazing that
we must jump to the conclusion that we had a conscious maker.
15. Everything in the universe has a cause. It is inconceivable that time is one, long beginning less
chain of cause and effect, but it must be because we cannot conceive of something happening
uncaused. Therefore, God exists as the uncaused first cause.
16. Every student should be guaranteed an education through college, including a comparable living
allowance. It is not fair that some students have to work while others can devote all their time to study
and recreation. It follows that the government should augment the student scholarship fund.
17. "I know it's hard, but it's hard for a reason," Mr. Bush said on Friday, a day after seven G.I.'s and
two marines died. "And the reason it's hard is because there are a handful of folks who fear freedom..
And I look at the elections as a - as a - you know, as a - as - as a historical marker for our Iraq policy."
18. TV has been with us since at least the 1950s. Isn’t there too much sex and violence on television
nowadays? Because there is so much sex and violence on television and because our children watch so
much of it these days, it is undoubtedly negatively affecting them since it is harmful for them.
Therefore shouldn’t we either raise the level of these programs or discourage our youth from watching
19. Students should attempt to acquire a broad education during the college years. Democracy needs
and informed citizens in order to function properly and when students concentrate on a narrow
specialization they might get a good job but they will not be truly educated people. So you should
double major and make sure that one of your majors is either in the humanities or social sciences.
20. Every student should be guaranteed an education through college, including a comparable living
allowance. It is not fair that some students have to work while others can devote all their time to study
and recreation. It follows that the government should augment the student scholarship fund or
increasing the funding level of the scholarship fund.
21. The idea of belief of a word of God existing in print, or in writing, or in speech, is inconsistent in
itself for reasons already assigned. These reasons, among many others, are the want of a universal
language; the mutability of language; the errors to which translations are subject; the probability of
altering it, or of fabricating the whole, and imposing it upon the world.
22. The tradition of college and universities can be traced back to at least 2,500 years. Students should
attempt to acquire a broad education during the college years. Democracy needs informed citizens in
order to function properly and when students concentrate on a narrow specialization they might get a
good job but they will not be truly educated people. So you should double major and make sure that
one of your majors is either in the humanities or social sciences.
23. All students should be encouraged to enroll in an exchange program and study in another country
for a year. Such a program will provide a valuable learning experience for the students since they will
be introduced to another culture and hence they will be able to perceive the limitations of their own
native culture. Also, they will be able to develop a more objective view of our government since they
will have first-hand access to another country's view of the U.S. and so will be less one-sided as a
24. Everyone should learn at least one foreign language. A foreign language can open the door to
foreign literature since many great novels and poems are impossible to translate adequately. Moreover,
if you travel to the country in which the language is spoKen, you can learn much more if you speak the
language since you can speak directly with the people and hence you can learn how they see the world.
So, if you have not yet mastered another language, you should take a foreign language course next
25. One should travel as much as possible. It is fun since it is exciting to see other countries, discover
the customs of other people and observe the natural wonders of the world. Moreover, it is a benefit
both educationally and morally. One broadens one's horizons and so one becomes more knowledgeable
about the world. At the same time one becomes a better person because, by viewing many different
cultures, one sees one's own culture in a better perspective and hence one becomes more tolerant. So, if
having children will tie you down, you should postpone having them unless you have already traveled
26. The death penalty should be removed since it is immoral and does not enhance our safety. Many
on death row did not commit the crimes they were accused of because DNA testing has shown that up
to 1/3 of death row inmates in Illinois were innocent. Also the death penalty is racist since blacks have
a 33% higher chance of getting the death penalty than whites in cases where the contexts in which
murders occurred were very similar. In addition it is wrong to kill since the Bible says we should not
kill. Since the death penalty has repeatedly shown to not be a deterrent to crime or killing it does not
make us any safer.
27. Today millions of people are smoking marijuana in this country and many people are arguing that
it should be legalized. They claim that marijuana is not particularly harmful to one's health and that it
can enhance one's imagination and hence it can enhance one's creativity. But I think they are absolutely
wrong. Recent studies have indicated that smoking one joint is equivalent to smoking five cigarettes in
terms of health damage so marijuana is definitely harmful to one's health. Moreover, marijuana does
not really enhance creativity because it merely alters one's sense of time and so it propels the user into
a pure fantasy world and hence simply serves as an escape from reality.
28. Share your Chinese food. Studies have found that Chinese entrees are consistently huge – often a
pound and half each or more, enough for four ―sensible‖ portions. That may make the food a good but,
but a caloric land mine. If you eat one whole dish yourself focus more on the vegetables and rice
(preferably brown). If you’re in a group, order at least one dish of steamed (not fried or sautéed)
vegetables for sharing. If you’re alone, order one plain vegetarian dish and another with meat or fish.
Combine part of both with rice, and save the rest for other meals. (U.C. Berkeley, Wellness Letter,
Vol. 21, Issue 5, February 2005)
29. The idea that there is such a thing as an eternal life and that it is in most ways more important than
this life – though it has produced a number of great goods – I think has generally caused immensely
greater misery than it has helped the world. First of all, it has completely devalued, for many of those
who believe in it, their present life. Second, it has made many of those people who believe in it live in
constant fear and guilt for what’s going to happen to them afterward. And it has prevented them from
doing anything to get rid of that fear and guilt by acting right because, if anything, they will get their
just deserts later on. Faith in the eternal life, which means faith in an absolute justification if you are
on the right side, has caused some of the worst treatment of human beings by other human beings.
30. The quality of most corporate-owned news sources – ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, NBC, Newsweek,
Time, KGO, KNBR - is poor because they value high ratings over in depth information because they
are more interested in making money than good news coverage. Thus news coverage of important
issues is brief, and often interesting, contrasting points of view are given little or no airtime. The
reason for this is because it’s cheaper to produce sound bite news and it makes for higher ratings since
viewers are much less likely to become bored with ―overly intellectual‖ news coverage. Ratings are
important because advertisers will pay media companies more money if their ratings are higher. Thus
there is more and more emphasis placed on junk news such as celebrity gossip, relatively rare but
tantalizing murder stories and irrelevant cutesy puff stories since people are more likely to get seduced
by this stuff than news that requires concentration and thought. So you should avoid corporate news.
31. If God exists, then God is all-loving, all-powerful, and all-knowing. Not only evil but gratuitous
evil exists in our world. What is gratuitous evil? Gratuitous evil, unlike regular evil, is evil that, in the
final analysis, serves no net good. Gratuitous evil ultimately only leads to a net result of suffering, bad
things, and misery for life beings – however you wish to define suffering, badness, or misery. Regular
evil on the other hand yields an overall good in the final result – however you wish to define good. So
how can a God that is all-loving, all-powerful, and all-knowing permit gratuitous evil? Why would
such a wonderful, powerful God not put an end to this sort of evil? Oh, and by the way, gratuitous evil
does exist. For example, the Nazi holocaust where six million Jews were gassed to death in
concentration camps. Other examples include: Hotel Rwanda which tells the story of 800,000 Tutsis
murdered by Hutus’ in Rwanda in 1994; the recent Tsunami which killed around 300,000 not to
mention leaving thousands of orphaned children vulnerable now to prostitution rings; or horrible child
abuse which sometimes produces adults who then continue the cycle of murder and rape. Clearly
gratuitous evil exists and thus God cannot exist as defined. If God did exist then there would be no
32. The TV was invented over 60 years ago but has changed our lives profoundly. More than four
hours a day: that’s how much television each American watches on average. So what this means is that
we are TV addicts here in the U.S. This TV habit of ours is having serious negative consequences
because excessive TV-watching cuts into family time, harms our kids’ ability to read and perform well
in school, and encourages violence. Also, excessive TV-watching promotes sedentary lifestyles and
obesity. Thus you should cancel your cable subscription and use the money for books. And guess
what? There’s lots of evidence: TV hurts families since 40% of families always or often watch TV
while eating dinner, and TV makes kids stupid too since only 14% of 12th-graders who watch TV six
hours a day or more achieve proficiency on reading tests, while 52% of students who watch less than
an hour a day of TV achieve proficiency on reading tests. As for violence, excessive TV-watching
definitely causes violence because not only is it true that by age 18 American children will have seen
an average of more than 200,000 acts of violence but by age 18 American children will have seen n
average of more than 16,000 murders on TV, and finally, all of the 3,500 research studies over the past
40 years show a link between watching media violence and committing acts of real violence. If you
still aren’t ready to cancel your subscription then you should realize that TV makes kids obese since
the proportion of overweight children has doubled since 1980 due to sedentary leisure time activities
such as watching TV. (from RealVision, http://www.tvturnoff.org )
33. Go to Best Food Forward’s website (http://www.myfootprint.org/ and use the online calculator to
determine the amount of carbon dioxide (which is causing global warming) that you emit based on
a. One Paragraph: What implications follow from the results? Is there an implied moral
argument about what you should do given these results?
b. Construct an MC/P diagram of your response to these implications based on your
personal carbon emission calculations.
34. Go to http://www.lcurve.org/ . Provide a diagram of what you think to be the implied argument in
the L-Curve picture (the website basically explains the picture and offers implications as well – you’ll
probably need to read part of the website to fully understand the L-Curve picture and compose the
diagram. Your diagram should be no longer than ¾ to 1 page. Evaluate the implied argument – ½
page. Is the argument internally strong or weak? Externally (dialectically?) strong or weak? Explain.
35. a) Write out an argument (3/4 page) in which you respond to the following claim: Advertising is
unethical and while there may be some benefits it is harmful overall. Do you agree or disagree? b)
Diagram your argument (1 page max); c) Evaluate your argument and think of possible counter-
examples to your argument. What might they be? Are they unrealistic or worth considering?
36. Attach two advertisements from a magazine. Then provide what you think to be the implied
argument for each advertisement. You will need to use both implied premises and most likely an
implied conclusion. In order to do this you will need to pay attention not only to what the ad explicitly
states but the visual details of the ad. Then evaluate each argument.
37. Pick one of the following lyrics – by 50 cent or by Norah Jones. See if you can diagram the lyrics
as an argument. Insert implied claims if necessary. Is the argument that you diagrammed a good
argument? Is it unfair to view lyrics as arguments?
Chorus to “Bad News” by 50 cent
“Come away with me” by Norah Jones
Come away with me in the night
I don't like you, you don't like me Come away with me
Its not likely that we'll ever be friends And I will write you a song
Why pretend? (Ma, Banks' back at it again)
Come away with me on a bus
I don't like you, you don't like me Come away where they can't tempt us
Its not likely that we'll ever be friends With their lies
Why pretend? (Ma, Tony's back at it again)
I want to walk with you
On a cloudy day
In fields where the yellow grass grows knee-
So won't you try to come
And I'll never stop loving you
And I want to wake up with the rain
Falling on a tin roof
While I'm safe there in your arms
So all I ask is for you
To come away with me in the night
Come away with me
X. CRITICAL THINKERS & THE UNITED STATES
A. The Media
1. Democracy and the Media by Ben H. Bagdikian
Excerpted from The Media Monopoly, Beacon Press, 1997
The bond between communities and their news has been strong from the beginning of the American experience. In the
eighteenth century, pioneers pushed inland from coastal cities, followed closely by itinerant printers who assumed that
every settlement should have its own newspaper. Early radio stations were not limited to national centers like New York
and Washington but broadcast in places like Medford Hillsides, Mass., and Stevensville, Mont. To this day newspapers take
the names of their cities, and radio and television stations are required to operate in a specified community, with local
studios to produce programs about local issues. It is not a quaint eccentricity. It is central to the special nature of
governance in the United States.
Most developed countries set all important public policy in their capital. But not the United States. Voters in communities
across the United States regularly elect 500,000 local officials to run 65,000 local governmental boards and committees.
Local officials govern schools, courts, zoning, water, fire, police, and other vital functions. Even the national government
has a locally based democracy in the House of Representatives, with 435 local districts, some consisting of only a few
urban neighborhoods. It is a system appropriate for a country with extraordinary diversities of population, local culture,
economy, and geography. But it is a formidable responsibility for voters.
Unlike other developed democracies, the United States does not have a parliamentary political system in which voters cast
their ballots for parties. Parties in most countries have distinct commitments to differing national programs, differences
easily discerned by voters. Citizens voting in those countries know that when they cast their ballots for a party's candidate
they are voting for particular policies. In the United States, voters cast ballots for individual candidates who are not bound
to any party program except rhetorically, and not always then. Some Republicans are more liberal than some Democrats,
some libertarians are more radical than some socialists, and many local candidates run without any party identification. No
American citizen can vote intelligently without knowledge of the ideas, political background, and commitments of each
No national paper or broadcast station can report adequately the issues and candidates in every one of the 65,000 local
voting districts. Only locally based journalism can do it, and if it does not, voters become captives of the only alternative
information, paid political propaganda, or no information at all.
There was never a precise pattern of each voting district with its own journalistic media. But there was once something like
it. In 1900, for example, there were 1,737 urban places and 2,226 daily papers. This came close to an average of a paper for
every city; most cities had competing dailies and weeklies. Papers were based in a single city, and most papers pursued the
intense interests of their particular readers within that city. It meant greater detail of information and political analysis.
Readers had strong loyalties to such papers and they provided a greater proportion of those papers' revenues than readers of
the 1980s pay for their more bland dailies. In the past it meant more, smaller papers, and smaller papers meant it cost less to
start new dailies. If existing papers ignored the interests of a significant part of the community there was a greater
likelihood chat an entrepreneur or politically oriented publisher would start a new paper to capitalize on the untouched
audience. As a result, turn-of-the-century papers more readily reflected changes in the needs and desires of the body politic.
Pursuit of advertising changed the versatility of American print media. It reduced the media's responsiveness to reader
desires. Publishers became more dependent on advertising revenues than on reader payments. Ads swelled the size of the
paper each day, requiring larger plants, more paper and ink, and bigger staffs, with the result that it was no longer easy for
newcomers to enter the newspaper business. As the country's population grew and new communities arose, the old pattern
disappeared. Instead of new papers to meet changing political forces, existing papers pushed beyond their municipal
boundaries to the new communities and, increasingly, reached not for all the new citizens but for the more affluent
consumers. Soon each metropolitan paper was pre-empting circulation in thousands of square miles with hundreds of
communities and voting districts. The newly captured populations were inundated with ever-larger quantities of regional
advertising, but the papers, and later the radio and television stations, could not possibly tell each community what it
needed to understand its own problems and needs.
From 1900 to 1950 the American population doubled and the number of urban places almost tripled, to 4,700. But the
number of daily newspapers dropped from 2,226 to 1,900. The citizens of the new towns and cities, unlike those of an
earlier time, learned almost no systematic information about their own communities, and those of older cities learned less
than before as their newspapers and broadcast stations turned their attention outward to wider areas.
The vast territory of each metropolitan newspaper and television station intensified a basic change in the country's urban
geography. After World War II, affluence and automobiles led many families to the suburbs. "Urban renewal" programs
converted downtowns from coherent residential and local commercial centers to regional corporate headquarters. The
change removed a major source of newspaper sales. A new interstate highway system encouraged the sprawl of residences,
factories, and offices, further diluting the politics and news audiences of the inner cities. Ironically, the programs that
destroyed central cities as living complexes were encouraged by metropolitan newspapers, oriented as they were to the
desires of real estate and other developers, but all the changes were destructive to the traditional daily sales of newspapers.
Demographic changes also hastened the demise of locally owned retail enterprises in favor of ever-larger national and
multinational corporations, which, in turn, pushed newspapers and broadcasting farther beyond their community
After World War II, mass advertising steadily destroyed competitive dailies; monopoly became the norm. In the new l
suburbs there were new dailies, but far from the number that had grown in American cities of the past. The new monopoly
corporations in the central cities pushed outward to the suburbs, pre-empting the best advertising that might otherwise have
supported a new local daily. Existing papers did not cover the new communities journalistically. In 1920 there were 2,722
urban places and 2,400 daily papers in the country. By 1980 there were 8,765 urban places and only 1,745 dailies. Today
more than 7,000 American cities have no daily paper of their own.
The new pattern after World War II had a profound impact on the way news was reported. One change was a new category
of "news" that was not really news. It was that gray area "fluff," part entertainment of interest to readers but mostly light
material designed to create a buying mood as bait for more advertising. The addition of fluff made newspapers larger and
drastically reduced the proportion of each paper devoted traditionally to its heart-the breaking news and commentary. The
priorities of newspaper companies were quietly rearranged away from the reporting of important political events toward
advertising-centered editorial matter. The new emphasis changed staffs, administrative operations, and leadership.
The new form of papers affected the attitude of readers. In 1900 newspaper subscribers paid twice the percentage of their
personal incomes for their daily papers as do subscribers of the 1980s. In 1900 each paper meant more to its readers
because the news dealt more closely with the reader's community and because each paper was more likely to meet its
readers' political and social interests. The responsiveness of earlier papers to their particular readers represented sensitivity
to social evolution; as social forces changed, papers were more likely to change with them. Papers in 1900 were more
accountable to their readers because their financial fate rested on reader loyalty. The news, which, among other things,
meant intense concern with politics and social change, was a more involving experience for individual citizens.
Responsiveness of each paper to its own social group was not an unmitigated advantage for society. It was easier for
different segments of the community to see the world differently. Papers' special orientations often increased divisions
within the community. But it is not clear that this was worse than the apathy resulting from a bland news system that avoids
partisanship in a society whose political system is designed to be partisan. Nor is it clear whether the homogenized news for
large areas serves citizens who are asked to make basic political decisions on a specific, local level.
The growth of monopoly and mass advertising diminished the amount of information about each community contained in
newspapers. This changed newspapers long before broadcasting became a major news system, though radio and television
soon adopted the same doctrine to meet their even greater dependence on advertising.
Newspapers neutralized information for fear that strong news and views pleasing to one part of the audience might offend
another part and thus reduce the circulation on which advertising rates depend. Where once it was profitable to pursue
particular issues and ideas of interest to the newspaper's particular group of readers, such pursuit now became a threat to
larger profits. Newspapers, and later broadcasters, wanted all potential affluent consumers regardless of their personal
political interests. Consequently, if a group as a whole were poor, as was true of some minorities, papers wished to avoid
news of them and their issues. Problems affecting lower-income communities generally did not become news until they
exploded and therefore affected affluent consumers.
Blandness in the basic politics of the media became standard. Socially sensitive material of interest to one segment of the
population might offend those with different opinions who, regardless of their differences, might possess the relevant
quality of interest to newspapers-money to spend on advertisers' products. News became neutralized both in selection of
items and in the nature of writing. American journalism began to strain out ideas and ideology from public affairs, except
for the safest and most stereotyped assumptions about patriotism and business enterprise. It adopted what two generations
of news-people have incorrectly called "objectivity."
The standard version of "objectivity" holds that it was created to end nineteenth-century sensationalism. To a large extent it
did, and that alone made it appealing to serious journalists. "Objectivity" demanded more discipline of reporters and editors
because it expected every item to be attributed to some authority. No traffic accident could be reported without quoting a
police sergeant. No wartime incident was recounted without confirmation from government officials. 'Objectivity"
increased the quantity of literal facts in the news, and it did much to strengthen the growing sense of discipline and ethics in
But the new doctrine was not truly objective. Different individuals writing about the same scene never produce precisely
the same account. And the way "objectivity" was applied exacted a high cost from journalism and from public policy.
With all its technical advantages, "objectivity" contradicted the essentially subjective nature of journalism. Every basic step
in the journalistic process involves a value-laden decision: Which of the infinite number of events in the environment will
be assigned for coverage and which ignored? Which of the infinite observations confronting the reporter will be noted?
Which of the facts noted will be included in the story? Which of the reported events will become the first paragraph? Which
story will be prominently displayed on page 1 and which buried inside or discarded? None of these is a truly objective
decision. But the disciplinary techniques of "objectivity" have the false aura of a science, and this has given almost a
century of American journalism an illusion of unassailable correctness.
"Objectivity" placed overwhelming emphasis on established, official voices and tended to leave unreported large areas of
genuine relevance that authorities chose not to talk about. It accentuated social forces as rhetorical contests of personalities,
with the reporter powerless to fill obvious gaps in official information or reasoning. It widened the chasm that is a constant
threat to democracy-the difference between the realities of private power and the illusions of public imagery.
"Objectivity" tended to keep news superficial because too deep a pursuit of a single subject might bore or offend some of
the audience. It strained out interpretation and background despite the desperate need for them in a century wracked by
political trauma. Recitations of facts about world wars, genocides, depressions, and nuclear proliferation are useful but
inadequate; mere recitations imply that all facts are of equal value.
The safest method of reporting news was to reproduce the words of authority figures, and in the nature of public relations
most authority figures issue a high quotient of imprecise and self-serving declarations. Physical crime, natural disasters, and
accidents were politically safe, which accounts for the peculiar American news habit of reporting remote accidents
regardless of their relevance to the audience. News became more official and establishmentarian.
Perhaps the most powerful influence of the doctrine on working journalists was unconscious: It obscured and therefore
made more palatable the unprofessional compromises with managerial imperatives and corporate politics. The subtle
workings of the doctrine over the years and its rationalization of avoiding judgments made it easy for serious writers to
remain silent about social ideas and political forces and to concentrate on contests of personalities. It produced the circular
answer to the perpetual question "What is news?"-"News is news." By mid-twentieth century "objectivity" had achieved the
status of a received truth. The first major crisis that "objectivity" created for journalists in this century centered on Senator
Joseph McCarthy, who was created largely by the assumption that journalists are not obligated to write what they can
demonstrate as true and significant unless it comes from the mouth of authority.
McCarthy paralyzed much of government and created hysteria throughout the country from 1950 to 1954 with lies and
distortions. He made increasingly wild claims about Soviet agents in high places, including in the offices of the president of
the United States, among generals of the U.S. Army, and in the Department of State. In the vast political wreckage
McCarthy left in his wake, the senator did not disclose a single Soviet agent that had not already been exposed. Many
competent journalists had evidence that McCarthy's statements were lies or clever distortions, some of it in the private
admissions of the senator himself during his jocular drinking bouts with journalists and editors. But most journalistic
organizations held to the doctrine that required use only of "official" statements by the most dramatic authority figure, and
McCarthy was a United States senator.
Years of reappraisal within journalism after the debacle of the McCarthy years have not prevented subsequent failures of
"objectivity" in an apolitical press. Race relations after World War II underwent powerful ferment, politically and socially,
but not until they exploded in massive demonstrations and riots did they become major news, reported afterward mostly as
police actions rather than as a profound change in the American scene. The same reluctance to report social forces made the
persistence of structural poverty in a rich society an unreportable phenomenon until it became a physical phenomenon.
Emergence of broadcasting in the 1920s did not create an alternative news system that might have broadened the spectrum
of coverage and provided genuine competition in generating news and analyzing ideas. Instead, broadcasting, with minor
exceptions, simply read the printed news in truncated form. Radio and television newscasts, at their longest, provide less
information than half a newspaper page. Some distinguished reporting from Europe immediately before World War II was
an exception, although the radio journalism staffs that produced it were quickly dismantled. The vivid immediacy of
television added a powerful dimension to news but shrank even the narrow spectrum of print.
Television's chief impact on newspapers was commercial, not journalistic. Its stunning ability to sell goods and its
inexpensive transmission over thousands of square miles led to a competition between printed and electronic media to reach
ever wider groups of potential customers, the reaches so broad that it was impossible to report news about the specific
communities exposed to the ads.
Television has obvious advantages over newspapers in immediacy, motion, color, and convenience. But it has one
enormous disadvantage: Each station can transmit only one message at a time. If that message is too long or too
controversial for some viewers, those viewers will turn to another channel or commit that terminal horror that haunts
television entrepreneurs -turn off the set. Whenever a viewer turns a television dial, a television station loses a customer.
Newspapers do not have that problem. If they choose, they can run a long story that will fascinate a particular set of readers.
Other readers can move their eyes to the next column or turn the page, where they may find material more to their liking.
Moving the eyes or turning the page does not mean that the newspaper publisher has lost a customer.
Television entrepreneurs found from the beginning that they had to maintain maximum attention among a wide disparity of
consumers. Far more than in print, TV presentations-in regular entertainment, public affairs, news, or commercials- could
not dwell too long on any one subject, and they could not be socially or politically controversial. Television found the
answer early in its history. It was the twin sovereigns of attention-getting in history-sex and violence. Sex had to be used
obliquely, given the national public morality, so it permeated television by innuendo, in themes of entertainment, in
selection of actresses and actors, in double meanings in commercials, and in sophisticated appeals to the subconscious.
Violence was easier to stress, given the prevalence of crime as a standard ingredient in printed news and the place of guns
and violence in the mythology of the country. Violence could be politically safe in programs of cops and robbers, in which
cops won by violence, or spy dramas, in which selected foreign enemies were defeated by violence.
Nothing in the history of public complaints has lessened the combined incidence of sex and violence. Some social
scientists, as well as the Surgeon General of the United States, have measured the high incidence and concrete social
consequences of sex and violence on television. If television producers momentarily reduce one in the face of organized
criticism, they raise the level of the other.
The social and psychological costs of these television twins are incalculable. The Surgeon General's studies have shown
that television violence increases actual violence and acceptance of violence in children. Other studies have shown that
children who watch a great deal of television are more cynical than are children who watch less television. The television
commercial is the most expensive and highly skilled artifact in American society, using the most polished producers, actors,
and technical reproduction and spending more for the creation and transmission of a series of thirty-second commercials
than some school districts spend to educate children for a year. The artful construction of commercials has created thirty
seconds as a basic attention unit, ideal for selling marginal goods but with negative psychological and intellectual
consequences for the average American child, who, the statistics show,' watches television for twice as many hours as he or
she attends school.
It is not simple moral perversity that keeps sex and violence on the air and serious subjects off. It is television executives'
desire to maintain as large an audience as possible for as long as possible for the purpose of selling goods and services.
The same persistence, with more subtlety, has characterized emotional manipulation in television commercials.
Commercials, too, have been immune to a variety of serious objections from consumer agencies, social critics, and parents.
Cynical manipulation in commercials, like that in television programming generally, comes not from capricious malice but
from the power of annual profit statements for both the corporations that advertise and the corporations that own the media.
Advertising occupies a powerful place in the American culture. It has become a worldwide symbol of the country's
reputation as the land of milk and honey, of endless material possessions for everybody. As an art form, ads are often
clever, entertaining, and arresting in their graphics and sexuality. Some are practical and informative. Most ads create a
fantasy experience, permitting the national nose to be pressed against the windows of exclusive shops that will never be
entered. In all its permutations-as a symbol of national wealth, as a purposeful entertainment, as a guide to useful products,
as a clever technique to engage the emotions-advertising has conditioned generations to accept it as an inescapable part of
the landscape, as ubiquitous and normal as houses and trees.
Confronted with criticism of commercials, media owners say the public likes ads. Some people clearly do like some
commercials, often more than they like the less carefully produced programs in which the commercials are imbedded. But
whether the public approves of what it gets in advertising is questionable. The American Association of Advertising
Agencies found in a ten-year study, from 1964 to 1974, a significant decrease in public belief that "advertising results in
better products for the public" or that it helps raise the standard of living or lowers prices. And there was an increase in
public feeling over the ten years that ads often persuade people to buy things they shouldn't and that most advertising
insults people's intelligence.
In 1977 a survey by Louis Harris of public attitudes toward leadership of major American activities found advertising at the
bottom of the list. The public seems to be repeating what the March Hare says in Alice in Wonderland: "You might just as
well say that 'I like what I get' is the same thing as 'I get what I like."'
To counter public resistance to television and advertising, the manipulation of emotions has become more sophisticated.
Social science and psychological techniques have been added to television's arsenal for conditioning human behavior. One
firm advises advertisers on whether their products should appeal to the left (analytical) or the right (emotional) side of the
human brain. The consultant staff attaches electrodes to scalps of volunteers to measure stimulation and types of brain
waves evoked by certain images in commercials. They tell advertisers that ads for products like perfume and beer should be
pitched to the right side of the brain; ads for cars and insurance should be directed to the left side. Most TV ads appeal to
the emotions. The manager of public opinion research for General Electric says that "much of response to advertising is
Another firm uses infrared eye scans to record rapid eye movement in response to test images in television commercials,
advising clients on elements of ads like the most effective juxtaposition of sex objects, for example, a woman in a bikini
and the brand name of the advertised product. A Manhattan firm measures involuntary larynx reaction and uses computers
to test people's reactions to proposed commercials, often determining that even when people say they dislike an ad, it makes
a lasting impression. A Texas firm uses electrodes attached to the fingertips of human subjects to see what symbols in
commercials- sex, fire, ocean, forests-create the most arousal in connection with a product.
Chuck Blore, a partner in the advertising firm Chuck Blore & Don Ruchman, Inc., has said, "Advertising is the art of
arresting the human intelligence just long enough to get money from it."
If that is true, it arrests a great deal of intelligence. It is estimated that the average American child has seen 350,000
commercials by age seventeen and, in the words of Billie Wahlstrom of the University of Southern California, these
commercials are "the propaganda arm of the American culture."
The American Association of Advertising Agencies has estimated that 1,600 advertising messages are aimed at a consumer
in an average day. The individual obviously is not struck by most of these and does not even become aware of all of them.
The average consumer takes momentary notice of about eighty commercial messages. Only twelve make a conscious
impression. But in order to maintain sanity and coherence in the midst of this clever and insistent bombardment, each
individual has to erect a sensory screen that instantly, often unconsciously, detects the incoming signal and rejects it. A car
driver, for example, catches a glimpse of a distant billboard and decides in a fraction of a second that it is of no interest and
thus does not engage his or her mind with the content of the ad. The advertising creators know this, so to penetrate the
screen that every human being erects to protect the senses, ad agencies need a constant supply of new symbols, images, and
The sheep's clothing of sex, beauty, a trusted personality, or a semi-sacred symbol is needed to encase the wolf of the sales
pitch. The human being often referred to by ad agencies as "the target"-on the alert to screen out unwanted symbols he or
she has already seen, does not recognize a new image and, before it is recognized as the same old message in a new guise,
the unidentified Lying object has penetrated the protective screen and made a hit on the deceived mind.
When parent groups and others complain to broadcasters about the impact of sex and violence on the young, broadcasters
traditionally answer that sex and violence on television do not change human behavior. That answer has been contradicted
by extensive studies and surveys by the Surgeon General of the United States. But each year broadcasters sell more than
$10 billion worth of commercial time whose only purpose is to change human behavior. Presumably, the most sophisticated
corporations would not continue spending billions of dollars if they thought they were not altering human behavior in their
Furthermore, it is one thing to show that not everyone exposed to a commercial or to regular programming changes his or
her overt, physical behavior. But it is another to suppose that there is no emotional or intellectual change from the
experience, any more than it would be to argue that the soldier, at any moment untouched by bullets in the battlefield, is
emotionally and intellectually untouched by the experience.
The reclothing of ads in ever-new symbols has contributed to the devastating attrition in the lifespan of symbols in modern
culture. Advertising is not the only cause of this attrition. All modern communications has a hand in it. Two hundred years
ago the common symbols of society were those of rulers and the church, their flags and icons displayed individually and
seen solely by live audiences. Mechanical printing and other mass communications changed that. Contemporary society is
filled with images, some in a constant state of change like television, or in continuously altered states, as in radio. Printing
reproduces words and illustrations in multiples of billions and can be absorbed by millions. Through electronic devices and
modern printing processes, flags, crosses, and other emotionally laden symbols can be mass-produced for huge audiences.
But no single force has equaled the merchandising process in its use of all the sacred and semi-sacred symbols to create a
culture of material consumption. Advertising is a source of symbol manipulation unknown to earlier generations. The
advertising industry spends $1,000 per household in order to break through the resistance of human senses and sometimes
of human intelligence. Selling symbols are in continuous flood for six and a half hours of television a day. Printed images
are seen on countless billions of magazine pages every week and the four billion newspaper pages printed every day. As
viewers and readers get used to the massively displayed symbols, the symbols change to the latest idea or personality or
national emotion until it, too, in days or weeks, becomes meaningless, part of the continuous and deliberate slag heap of
Sponsoring corporations will even use symbols they dislike and then trivialize them, in their voracious appetite for new
sheep's clothing. In the 1960s the psychedelic style in art and clothing, created by hippies as antiestablishment statements,
was adopted almost at once in advertisements and editorial illustration by the establishment media, not out of sympathy but
as a way of placing inviting and novel garments on old sales pitches. Symbols and terms of the intense antiwar movement
during the Vietnam War were adopted in ads and programming even by corporations engaged in war contracts.
Perhaps the most easily measured damage of the media battle for consumers is inflicted on the American political system.
Mass advertising, without intending to, has become instrumental in degrading the basic unit of American government.
News distribution is no longer designed for individual towns and cities. American politics is organized on the basis of the
20,000 urban and rural places in the country, which is the way citizens vote. But the media have organized on the basis of
210 television "markets," which is the way merchandisers and media corporations sell ads. As a result, the fit between the
country's information needs and its information media has become disastrously disjointed.
The average television station sends its signal over more than 10,000 square miles, or about fifty counties. Metropolitan
dailies, not by coincidence, cover about the same territory. (The Atlanta Constitution and journal, for example, circulates
significantly in fifty-five counties, thirty-nine of which do not have their own daily paper. ) The average county has twenty-
six local governments, of which twenty-two have taxing powers and five are school districts. This means that the average
metropolitan newspaper and television station dominate the news for an area that contains 1,300 public policymaking
bodies and elects large portions of state legislatures and the U.S. House of Representatives. If each policymaking body in
the area met once a week and each metropolitan news medium reported only on those meetings and on no other events in
the communities, a typical half-hour newscast would give five and a half seconds to each body, and a newspaper would
give thirty-eight words. But in fact TV stations, radio stations, and metropolitan papers do not cover each of the
policymaking bodies in the areas of their circulation or even the general news in each of the communities. Nor could they if
they tried, given the vast areas and the numerous local districts. In other countries with centralized national policymaking,
local news coverage is a negligible need. In the United States local coverage is crucial.
Though big-city TV, radio, and newspapers do not cover each of the communities they reach, they sell advertising to the
major merchandisers for their region and thus remove the economic base for indigenous stations and papers. Many of the
communities without daily papers have weekly ones and they often serve important functions; the best ones adequately fill
the gap. But most communities either have none or have shopping papers with little or no significant social and political
news. In fact, most daily papers issue such news-less advertising sheets in the smaller communities around their central city
to further increase their revenues. By collecting local advertising in that way, they further pre-empt the basis for an
independent local paper.
There is nothing inevitable in this pattern. In 1851 Horace Greeley, testifying before a committee of the British Parliament,
described the pattern in the United States in his time:
When a town grows to have as many as 15,000 inhabitants, or thereabouts, then it has a daily paper; sometimes that is the
case when it has as few as l0,000. .. 15,000 may be stated as the average at which a daily paper commences; at 20,000 they
have two, and so on; in central towns . . . they have from three to five daily journals.
If the same pattern existed today, the country would have 4,600 daily papers instead of 1,700. Today 43 percent of the U.S.
population lives in counties with no local daily paper. If radio licenses were granted on the basis of political and social
needs, each county could have at least three indigenous stations instead of the present concentration of radio and TV
stations in a small number of major metropolitan merchandising markets. This disparity between citizens' and
merchandising needs has made American elected office the prize of rich men and women or candidates backed by rich men
and women. Traditional elective politics demanded that the candidates appear in person before special groups of voters.
This produced a generous diet of rhetorical sound and fury, sophistries, cynicisms, and simplistic proclamations. But
because the candidate appeared in person, often before groups who had intense interest and knowledge of issues that
affected them, the effectiveness of empty rhetoric was limited. Farmers might accept sophistries about urban factory
workers but they would have a high level of critical judgment about agricultural economics, and they would not hesitate to
press the candidate for details. The same would be true for auto workers, corporate executives, railroad operators, or labor
union chiefs. Each would want to pursue in depth the subjects that most concerned them. The mosaic of these interests put
together by a candidate would decide success or failure at the polls.
But if a candidate could avoid firm positions, it increased the possibility of giving the appearance of being all things to all
voters. For this, television seemed a perfect medium. It is an established American habit. Favorite programs are watched by
a large, predictable audience. The insertion of emotional commercials into programs had become an accepted practice for a
variety of products-perfume, laxatives, toilet paper, automobiles, underarm deodorants, adhesives for dentures,
hemorrhoidal ointments. A commercial for a political candidate could fall easily into the accepted brief interval in regular
programs. A carefully taped, meticulously edited political presentation with all the immediacy and simulated sincerity of a
commercial, but without serious content, could be projected into homes where viewers would be most vulnerable.
Television stations reach more people than a candidate, other than a presidential candidate, wants to reach. But the
candidate has no choice but to "buy" voters not needed for election, and at enormous cost. (The fact that most of the
candidate's message is irrelevant to most of the audience means that a portion of the audience might switch channels, which
in turn means that television stations resist political commercials if they can. ) A candidate for the U.S. House of
Representatives from a district in metropolitan Chicago would find the economics of TV advertising impossible without
heavy financial backing. The typical House district has 150,000 households. A Chicago-based television station that
reaches a typical district also reaches three million households in thirty-five counties in four states. The candidate either
pays for the 2,850,000 unwanted households or loses the television access to his or her district that a richer candidate can
buy. (A prime-time, thirty-second commercial for a major sponsor can cost more than $250,000 to produce. Few political
commercials cost as much, but the cost even for less elaborate political ads on television is so high that it has created an
ominous barrier to entry into American politics.) Thirty-second commercials must be repeated to be effective. The thirty-
second political ad on a Chicago station, repeated ten times, would cost more than $50,000 just for air time. The ad would
then be broadcast over a station that reaches so large an audience that 95 percent do not vote in the candidate's district.
Few candidates can afford to buy a fifteen-minute or thirty-minute block of television time, a period so long in commercial
television for a non-entertainment program that most stations would refuse such a sale for fear of losing most of their
audience. Even if a candidate wanted to buy this time, there are disadvantages: The longer the time, the harder it is to avoid
serious issues. (In Ronald Reagan's 1980 campaign for the presidency, the most expensive in history, 70 percent of his
network time was for thirty-second commercials, 25 percent for five-second commercials, and only 5 percent for thirty-
minute talks.) So, inevitably, television electioneering, which, combined with direct mail, is now the major mechanism of
American campaigns, deals mostly with imagery and emotional manipulation engendered by the five-second and thirty-
second commercial. It has displaced the phenomenon of the live candidate before live audiences and almost eliminated
coherent debate. A whole generation of voters has not heard serious content in election campaigns; that this generation of
voters increasingly does not bother to vote may not be unrelated.
If a Chicago candidate for the U.S. House decided to turn to a Chicago newspaper to reach his or her 150,000 households,
he or she would not &d a substantial difference in cost or effectiveness. A major Chicago newspaper is distributed in thirty-
seven counties with a population of seven million. To buy a half-page ad repeated ten times could cost $100,000.
Running successfully for public office is highly expensive, and the biggest spenders have been winning the campaigns at a
rate of 4 to 1. Abraham Lincoln won by spending $100,000; McKinley in 1900 spent less than $4 million; Roosevelt in
1932, less than $3 million; Kennedy in 1960, $10 million; Nixon in 1968, $25 million; Reagan in 1980, $152 million.
Between 1976 and 1980 the total cost of campaigns for all public office in the country doubled, to $900 million.
In California, where some of the best records are kept, the cost of a campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives rose 45
percent between the election of 1976 and that of 1978; the cost of a U.S. Senate race in those two elections rose 72 percent.
Today it can cost a quarter of a billion dollars to get elected president and multiples of millions to become a senator or a
representative in Congress. Not surprisingly, the role of wealthy, special-interest groups in campaigns has risen
The inappropriate fit between the country's major media and the country's political system has starved voters of relevant
information, leaving them at the mercy of paid political propaganda that is close to meaningless and often worse. It has
eroded the central requirement of a democracy that those who are governed give not only their consent but their informed
B. Environment/ Apocalypse
1. Welcome to Doomsday by Bill Moyers
Volume 52, Number 5 · March 24, 2005
1. There are times when what we journalists see and intend to write about dispassionately sends a shiver down the spine,
shaking us from our neutrality. This has been happening to me frequently of late as one story after another drives home the
fact that the delusional is no longer marginal but has come in from the fringe to influence the seats of power. We are
witnessing today a coupling of ideology and theology that threatens our ability to meet the growing ecological crisis.
Theology asserts propositions that need not be proven true, while ideologues hold stoutly to a world view despite being
contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality. The combination can make it impossible for a democracy to fashion
real-world solutions to otherwise intractable challenges.
In the just-concluded election cycle, as Mark Silk writes in Religion in the News,
the assiduous cultivation of religious constituencies by the Bush apparat, and the undisguised intrusion of
evangelical leaders and some conservative Catholic hierarchs into the presidential campaign, demonstrated that the
old rule of maintaining a decent respect for the nonpartisanship of religion can now be broKen with impunity.
The result is what the Italian scholar Emilio Gentile, quoted in Silk's newsletter, calls "political religion"—religion as an
instrument of political combat. On gay marriage and abortion— the most conspicuous of the "non-negotiable" items in a
widely distributed Catholic voter's guide—no one should be surprised what this political religion portends. The agenda has
been foreshadowed for years, ever since Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and other right-wing Protestants set out to turn white
evangelicals into a solid Republican voting bloc and reached out to make allies of their former antagonists, conservative
What has been less apparent is the impact of the new political religion on environmental policy. Evangelical Christians
have been divided. Some were indifferent. The majority of conservative evangelicals, on the other hand, have long hooked
their view to the account in the first book of the Bible:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God
blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the
fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth."
There are widely varying interpretations of this text, but it is safe to say that all presume human beings have inherited the
earth to be used as they see fit. For many, God's gift to Adam and Eve of "dominion" over the earth and all its creatures has
been taken as the right to unlimited exploitation. But as Blaine Harden reported recently in The Washington Post, some
evangelicals are beginning to "go for the green." Last October the National Association of Evangelicals adopted an
"Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility," affirming that "God-given dominion is a sacred responsibility to steward the
earth and not a license to abuse the creation of which we are a part." The declaration acknowledged that for the sake of
clean air, clean water, and adequate resources, the government "has an obligation to protect its citizens from the effects of
But even for green activists in evangelical circles, Harden wrote, "there are landmines."
Welcome to the Rapture.
There are millions of Christians who believe the Bible is literally true, word for word. Some of them—we'll come back to
the question of how many— subscribe to a fantastical theology concocted in the nineteenth century by two immigrant
preachers who took disparate passages from the Bible and wove them with their own hallucinations into a narrative
foretelling the return of Jesus and the end of the world. Google the "Rapture Index" and you will see just how the notion
has seized the imagination of many a good and sincere believer (you will also see just where we stand right now in the
ticking of the clock toward the culmination of history in the apocalypse). It is the inspiration for the best-selling books in
America today—the twelve novels in the Left Behind series by Christian fundamentalist and religious- right warrior Tim
LaHaye, a co- founder with Jerry Falwell of the Moral Majority.
The plot of the Rapture—the word never appears in the Bible although some fantasists insist it is the hidden code to the
Book of Revelation—is rather simple, if bizarre. (The British writer George Monbiot recently did a brilliant dissection of it
and I am indebted to him for refreshing my own insights.) Once Israel has occupied the rest of its "biblical lands," legions
of the Antichrist will attack it, triggering a final showdown in the valley of Armageddon. As the Jews who have not been
converted are burned the Messiah will return for the Rapture. True believers will be transported to heaven where, seated at
the right hand of God, they will watch their political and religious opponents writhe in the misery of plagues—boils, sores,
locusts, and frogs—during the several years of tribulation that follow.
I'm not making this up. Like Monbiot, I read the literature, including The Rapture Exposed, a recent book by Barbara
Rossing, who teaches the New Testament at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, and America Right or Wrong, by
Anatol Lieven, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. On my weekly broadcast for PBS, we
reported on these true believers, following some of them from Texas to the West Bank. They are sincere, serious, and polite
as they tell you they feel called to help bring the Rapture on as fulfillment of biblical prophecy. To this end they have
declared solidarity with Israel and the Jewish settlements and backed up their support with money and volunteers.
For them the invasion of Iraq was a warm-up act, predicted in the Book of Revelation, where four angels "bound in the
great river Euphrates" will be released "to slay the third part of man." A war with Islam in the Middle East is not something
to be feared but welcomed—an essential conflagration on the road to redemption. The last time I Googled it, the Rapture
Index stood at 144—approaching the critical threshold when the prophecy is fulfilled, the whole thing blows, the Son of
God returns, and the righteous enter paradise while sinners will be condemned to eternal hellfire.
What does this mean for public policy and the environment? Listen to John Hagee, pastor of the 17,000- member
Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, who is quoted in Rossing's book as saying: "Mark it down, take it to heart, and
comfort one another with these words. Doomsday is coming for the earth, for the nations, and for individuals, but those
who have trusted in Jesus will not be present on earth to witness the dire time of tribulation." Rossing sums up the message
in five words that she says are basic Rapture credo: "The world cannot be saved." It leads to "appalling ethics," she reasons,
because the faithful are relieved of concern for the environment, violence, and everything else except their personal
salvation. The earth suffers the same fate as the unsaved. All are destroyed.
How many true believers are there? It's impossible to pin down. But there is a constituency for the End Times. A Newsweek
poll found that 36 percent of respondents held the Book of Revelation to be "true prophecy." (A Time/ CNN poll reported
that one quarter think the Bible predicted the 9/11 attacks.) Drive across the country with your radio tuned to some of the
1,600 Christian radio stations or turn to some of the 250 Christian TV stations and you can hear the Gospel of the
Apocalypse in sermon and song. Or go, as The Toronto Star's Tom Harpur did, to the Florida Panhandle where he came
across an all-day conference "at one of the largest Protestant churches I have ever been in," the Village Baptist Church in
Destin. The theme of the day was "Left Behind: A Conference on Biblical Prophecy about End Times" and among the
speakers were none other than Tim LaHaye and two other leading voices in the religious right today, Gary Frazier and Ed
Hindson. Here is what Harpur wrote for his newspaper:
I have never heard so much venom and dangerous ignorance spouted before an utterly unquestioning, otherwise normal-
looking crowd in my life.... There were stunning statements about humans having been only 6,000 years on Earth and other
denials of contemporary geology and biology. And we learned that the Rapture, which could happen any second now, but
certainly within the next 40 years, will instantly sweep all the "saved" Americans (perhaps one-half the population) to
But these fantasies were harmless compared with the hatred against Islam that followed. Here are some direct quotes:
"Islam is an intolerant religion—and it's clear whose side we should be on in the Middle East." Applause greeted these
words: "Allah and Jehovah are not the same God.... Islam is a Satanic religion.... They're going to attack Israel for
certain...." Gary Frazier shouted at the top of his lungs: "Wake Up. Wake Up." And roughly eight hundred heads (at $25.00
per) nodded approval as he added that the left-wing, anti-Israel media—"for example, CNN"—will never tell the world the
truth about Islam. According to these three, and the millions of Americans they lead, Muslims intend ultimately "to impose
their religion on us all." It was clear, Harpur wrote: "A terrible, final war in the region is inevitable."
You can understand why people in the grip of such fantasies cannot be expected to worry about the environment. As Glenn
Scherer writes in his report for the on-line environmental magazine Grist, why care about the earth when the droughts,
floods, famine, and pestilence brought by ecological collapse are signs of the apocalypse foretold in the Bible? Why care
about global climate change when you and yours will be rescued in the Rapture? Why bother to convert to alternative
sources of energy and reduce dependence on oil from the volatile Middle East? Anyway, until Christ does return, the Lord
Scherer came upon a high school history book, America's Providential History, which is used in fundamentalist circles.
Students are told that "the secular or socialist has a limited resource mentality and views the world as a pie…that needs to
be cut up so everyone can get a piece." The Christian, however, "knows that the potential in God is unlimited and that there
is no shortage of resources in God's Earth.... While many secularists view the world as overpopulated, Christians know that
God has made the earth sufficiently large with plenty of resources to accommodate all of the people."
While it is impossible to know how many people hold these views, we do know that fundamentalists constitute a large and
powerful proportion of the Republican base, and, as Anatol Lieven writes, "fundamentalist religiosity has become an
integral part of the radicalization of the right in the US and of the tendency to demonize political opponents as traitors and
enemies of God and America"—including, one must note, environmentalists, who are routinely castigated as villains and
worse by the right. No wonder Karl Rove wandered the White House whistling "Onward Christian Soldiers" as he prepared
for the 2004 elections.
I am not suggesting that fundamentalists are running the government, but they constitute a significant force in the coalition
that now holds a monopoly of power in Washington under a Republican Party that for a generation has been moved steadily
to the right by its more extreme variants even as it has become more and more beholden to the corporations that finance it.
One is foolish to think that their bizarre ideas do not matter. I have no idea what President Bush thinks of the
fundamentalists' fantastical theology, but he would not be president without them. He suffuses his language with images
and metaphors they appreciate, and they were bound to say amen when Bob Woodward reported that the President "was
casting his vision, and that of the country, in the grand vision of God's master plan."
That will mean one thing to Dick Cheney and another to Tim LaHaye, but it will confirm their fraternity in a regime whose
chief characteristics are ideological disdain for evidence and theological distrust of science. Many of the constituencies who
make up this alliance don't see eye to eye on many things, but for President Bush's master plan for rolling back
environmental protections they are united. A powerful current connects the administration's multinational corporate cronies
who regard the environment as ripe for the picking and a hard-core constituency of fundamentalists who regard the
environment as fuel for the fire that is coming. Once again, populist religion winds up serving the interests of economic
The corporate, political, and religious right's hammerlock on environmental policy extends to the US Congress. Nearly half
of its members before the election—231 legislators in all (more since the election)—are backed by the religious right,
which includes several powerful fundamentalist leaders like LaHaye. Forty-five senators and 186 members of the 108th
Congress earned 80 to 100 percent approval ratings from the most influential Christian Right advocacy groups. Not one
includes the environment as one of their celebrated "moral values."
When I talk about this before a live audience I can see from the look on the faces before me just how hard it is for a
journalist to report on such things with any credibility. So let me put on a personal level what sends the shiver down my
I myself don't know how to be in this world without expecting a confident future and getting up every morning to do what I
can to bring it about. I confess to having always been an optimist. Now, however, I remember my friend on Wall Street
whom I once asked: "What do you think of the market?" "I'm optimistic," he answered. "Then why do you look so
worried?" And he answered, "Because I am not sure my optimism is justified."
I'm not, either. Once upon a time I believed that people will protect the natural environment when they realize its
importance to their health and to the health and lives of their children. Now I am not so sure. It's not that I don't want to
believe this—it's just that as a journalist I have been trained to read the news and connect the dots.
I read that the administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency has declared the election a mandate for President
Bush on the environment. This for an administration:
that wants to rewrite the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act protecting rare plant and
animal species and their habitats, as well as the national Environmental Policy Act that requires the government to judge
beforehand if actions might damage natural resources;
that wants to relax pollution limits for ozone, eliminate vehicle tailpipe inspections, and ease pollution standards for cars,
sport utility vehicles, and diesel-powered big trucks and heavy equipment;
that wants a new international audit law to allow corporations to keep certain information about environmental problems
secret from the public;
that wants to drop all its New-Source Review suits against polluting coal-fired power plans and weaKen consent decrees
reached earlier with coal companies;
that wants to open the Arctic Wildlife Refuge to drilling and increase drilling in Padre Island National Seashore, the longest
stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world and the last great coastal wild land in America;
that is radically changing the management of our national forests to eliminate critical environmental reviews, open them to
new roads, and give the timber companies a green light to slash and cut as they please.
I read the news and learned how the Environmental Protection Agency plotted to spend $9 million—$2 million of it from
the President's friends at the American Chemistry Council—to pay poor families to continue the use of pesticides in their
homes. These pesticides have been linked to neurological damage in children, but instead of ordering an end to their use,
the government and the industry concocted a scheme to offer the families $970 each, as well as a camcorder and children's
clothing, to serve as guinea pigs for the study.
I read that President Bush has more than one hundred high-level officials in his administration overseeing industries they
once represented as lobbyists, lawyers, or corporate advocates—company insiders waved through the revolving door of
government to assure that drug laws, food policies, land use, and the regulation of air pollu-tion are industry-friendly.
Among the "advocates-turned-regulators" are a former meat industry lobbyist who helps decide how meat is labeled; a
former drug company lobbyist who influences prescription drug policies; a former energy lobbyist who, while accepting
payments for bringing clients into his old lobbying firm, helps to determine how much of our public lands those former
clients can use for oil and gas drilling.
I read that civil penalties imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency against polluters in 2004 hit an fifteen-year
low, in what amounts to an extended holiday for industry from effective compliance with environmental laws.
I read that the administration's allies at the International Policy Network, which is supported by Exxon-Mobil and others of
like mind and interest, have issued a report describing global warming as "a myth" at practically the same time the
President, who earlier rejected the international treaty outlining limits on greenhouse gases, wants to prevent any "written
or oral report" from being issued by any international meetings on the issue.
I read not only the news but the fine print of a recent appropriations bill passed by Congress, with ob-scure amendments
removing all endangered species protections from pesticides, prohibiting judicial review for a forest in Oregon, waiving
environmental review for grazing permits on public lands, and weaKening protection against development for crucial
habitats in California.
I read all this and look up at the pictures on my desk, next to the computer —pictures of my grandchildren: Henry, age
twelve; Thomas, ten; Nancy, eight; Jassie, three; SaraJane, one. I see the future looking back at me from those photographs
and I say, "Father, forgive us, for we know not what we do." And then the shiver runs down my spine and I am seized by
the realization: "That's not right. We do know what we are doing. We are stealing their future. Betraying their trust.
Despoiling their world."
And I ask myself: Why? Is it because we don't care? Because we are greedy? Because we have lost our capacity for
outrage, our ability to sustain indignation at injustice?
What has happened to our moral imagination?
On the heath Lear asks Gloucester: "How do you see the world?" And Gloucester, who is blind, answers: "I see it
I see it feelingly.
Why don't we feel the world enough to save it—for our kin to come?
The news is not good these days. But as a journalist I know the news is never the end of the story. The news can be the
truth that sets us free not only to feel but to fight for the future we want. The will to fight is the antidote to despair, the cure
for cynicism, and the answer to those faces looking back at me from those photographs on my desk. We must match the
science of human health to what the ancient Israelites called hochma—the science of the heart, the capacity to see and feel
and then to act as if the future depended on us.
Believe me, it does.