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THE SCIENCE OF ARGUMENT

Part II

ANALYZING ARGUMENTS

Having identified an argument as a group of claims, some of which are made in support of another, we can go onto the matter of analysis. By analysis an argument is separated into its parts and those parts are identified by their functions. Every argument has a CONCLUSION which is the claim that is being proposed as true or probable. The first step in analyzing any argument is to identify its conclusion.

When a conclusion has been identified, the job of analysis becomes to identify the claims that are given in support of the conclusion. These are the PREMISES of the argument. The way to identify a premise is to ask whether the claim in question is intended as evidence or support for the conclusion.

Consider the argument given previously;

God exists because the universe could not have created itself.

One way to represent this argument in analysis is by an Argument Diagram. An argument diagram shows the parts of the argument and the relations between them. The above argument would be diagramed thus:

Argument Diagram

Notice that this diagram shows the parts of the argument and the way they are related: the conclusion follows the premise or the premise(s) support the conclusion.

This diagram does not say whether the argument is strong, weak, or even complete. It simply provides an accurate depiction of the parts and how they are related. That is the basic task of analysis.

To give an analysis of an argument is very different from evaluating it. Evaluation presents a value and judgement about the strength of the argument. Analysis simply seeks to present the argument accurately. That is: to identify the argument parts, their functions, and how they fit together.

Analysis without evaluation is hard for many people to do. When we come across arguments that oppose our own beliefs, we tend to seek their destruction. When we deal with arguments that involve claims we agree with, we tend to overlook errors in their formation. The philosophical attitude is different from this. To philosophically address a topic means to look for arguments and to address each argument in its strongest interpretation. Once we have sufficiently analyzed another person's argument (or our own), then we are in a position to apply evaluation.

DO THIS

Read the following passage. Determine the conclusion of the argument in it. Select the conclusion from the choices below. A correct answer will link you to Part IV Argument Summary.

"If something can create itself, then it is possible for something to come out of nothing. But it is not possible for something to come out of nothing. So, the universe could not have created itself."
The conclusion of the above argument is:

It is not possible for something to come out of nothing.

God exists.

The universe could not have created itself.

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