January 7th – Philosophy Terms And What Is An Argument?
How did you go with defining these terms?
Philosophy – as I said in a previous blog-post, there’s a number of different definitions that people use. I settle for “examining the nature of knowledge, existence and what is real”. It originates from the Greek word philosophia, which means “the love of wisdom”.
The following are branches of philosophy:
Aesthetics – the study of the characteristics of beauty and taste, especially in art. It originates from the Greek word aisthetikos (from aisthesthai), meaning “perspective”. Essentially we’re looking at what we know and agree upon (and debate about!) when it comes to the characteristics of art, what makes good art, and what perspectives people have and why.
Epistemology – the study of knowledge, especially the scope of knowledge. It originates from the Greek word episteme, which means “knowledge”. This includes how we gain knowledge of things (and how we justify claims in that vein).
Ethics – the study of what is morally right. It originates from the Greek word ethos, which means “character”. When studying ethics, we’re looking at what is right and wrong, how we justify particular ethical stances on issues and why.
Logic and the Philosophy of Language – the study of logical thought, rationality, reasoning and arguments. It originates from the Greek word logikē, relating to “reason”.
Metaphysics – the study of the fundamental nature of existence, being and the world, looking at what is real. Origin from the Greek ta meta ta phusika: “the things after the physics”.
Arguably there’s other branches in philosophy, such as educational philosophy, political philosophy and so on, but there are some of the aspects that will arise again and again over the rest of the blog-posts throughout this year. Big credits to the Oxford Dictionary and Thesaurus for help with the Greek definitions.
What Is An Argument?
Yesterday I posted a famous comedy clip by the Monty Pythons, where a customer seeks to have an argument at the Argument Clinic. The customer (played by Michael Palin) firstly goes to the wrong room by accident where gets abused. He then finds the correct room for an argument, staffed by John Cleese. However, he’s dissatisfied as he’s only getting contradicted by Cleese, which he says isn’t what arguments are about. Having someone say “Is not!” to everything you say doesn’t constitute an argument!
The customer (Michael Palin) then defines an argument is “a connected series of statements to establish a definite proposition“. I would argue that it’s a little more detailed than that: “a set of statements in which a claim is made and supported, by way of premises, inferences and conclusion“. We’re looking at a series of statements or assertions which are purported to justify or explain a conclusion (and how well that is done!).
Premise —— Inference —– Conclusion
Some examples of words and phrases that indicate premises: since, because, for, as shown by, for the reason that.
Some examples of words and phrases that indicate conclusion indicators: therefore, hence, as a result, accordingly, we may infer, thus.
Example of an argument:
I have a cold; but I am taking this medicine – therefore I will soon feel better.
NOT an argument:
The bottle says it works.
An argument may not necessarily have a conclusion at the end of a sentence:
This cold of mine will be fixed by this medicine, because the chemist has recommended it to me and the label says that it contains ingredients to help colds.
Examples of Argument Forms:
Serial Argument - one single line of reasoning.
- All men are mortal
- Socrates is a man
- Therefore, Socrates is mortal.
- All this cold medicine is mine
- I have a cold
- Therefore, I can no longer focus on near objects.
Convergent Argument - two reasons that, independent of each other, support the conclusion. This means that even if we eliminate one reason, the conclusion is still obtainable by the reason that remains.
Hydrogen blimps should not be built. Travel via blimps isn’t necessary when there are other safer means; in addition, there are few well-qualified drivers of blimps who could handle the conditions involved in using them.
This cold medicine is not unlike watching the movie Poltergeist. Firstly, I think there’s a disconnect between my hands and my arms; also, where is my nose?
When evaluating arguments, we evaluate their premises and the way they’re related to the conclusion. If an argument is cogent (another word used is sound) – then the premises are rationally acceptable and are ordered as such to provide support for the conclusion.
Here’s an example of an argument by Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion:
It is clear that omniscience and omnipotence are mutually incompatible. If God is omniscient, he must already know he is going to intervene to change the course of history using his omnipotence. But that means he can’t change his mind about his intervention, which means he is not omnipotent.
For that example – try identifying the premise, inference/s and conclusion. What are the premise indicators and the conclusion indicator?