Critical Thinking: What is an Argument?



so what is an argument we'll take a look at what Norman is and learn some vocabulary to describe the different parts of an argument so things like claims and issues premises conclusions so can you think of somebody within the last few days that has tried to convince you that something was true you know so maybe there's somebody on a commercial trying to convince you of what car to buy or somebody when your family's trying to convince you to vote for for the for the next election or maybe there's a teacher who's trying to convince you of a fact about about history or about science anybody really can you think of anybody who has recently tried to convince you that something was true and try to think of specifics and who was this person what was that belief take a second think about that now the belief opinion etc that they are trying to convince you is true these are all examples of a claim so in our class we have a formal definition of what a claim is and that is and I'm sorry we have a formal definition of what critical thinking is so last time we talked we mentioned that you know in general critical thinking is just about thinking carefully but a more formal definition for our class is that critical thinking is the careful application of reason in the determination of whether or not a claim is true so somebody states an idea a belief an opinion that they're that they are trying to convince you is true or that they just believe is true and in our class the idea of critical thinking is about the careful application of reason in the determination of whether a claim is true using logic and rational thinking to determine whether or not what somebody is trying to convince you of is accurate now let's digress for a brief moment to talk about you know how human beings come to conclusions how do they determine for themselves what to believe now there is a psychologist who there was a psychologist named Carl Jung who was famous for many things but one of the things you may have learned from Carl Jung was a way of looking at human personalities that he created a personality typology sort of a map to understand that human beings are all different in one of the things he identifies is that there are people who you know when they come to a choice when they come into a decision use a rational thought right so within everybody there is the ability to think rationally about a choice or a decision but there are other people who lean more towards an alternative way of making a choice and he says that if an every human being is a feeling function that sometimes we will there are those of us who will come to a choice and not necessarily because we've looked at all the facts and tried to rationally come to conclusion about the facts but because but through feeling our way through the decision now there are other classes and that can help us that may help you get in touch with the feeling function how to get in touch with your intuition how to get in touch with gut instinct and you know even after Carl Jung's time when we take a look at how the human body processes information you know it makes sense that there are some things that our body will know to be true or our body will know about prior to us rationally coming to that conclusion right you know there's sensory input coming into our nervous system all the time and our body has been it has evolved to adapt and come two behaviors as a result of the stimuli even though we may not be consciously aware of what it is that we are that our bodies unconsciously noticing around us so to that extent you know it makes sense that there may be some truth to or some validity to or usefulness to following our gut when it comes to making choices however there is obviously issues with that especially if you don't know how to read our feelings and you know there's a fine line between following our guts versus you know following prejudices or following fears coming to a choice out of you know emotion that blinds our ability to think carefully about choice so in our class where we won't focus so much on the feeling function and making choices to focus primarily on the thinking function how can we best or better develop our ability to carefully reason through a belief right carefully reasoned through a decision so with that said from this point forward going with the rest of the course our focus is on how to think carefully how to critically think using our sense of reason whether or not to believe something to be true or false now an argument the basics of an argument include various claims write various statements people have about how things are in the world so here is a definition of a claim any statement of fact belief opinion etc so if somebody says hey you need to use an umbrella today well they're trying to state something right they're stating some sort of opinion about excuse me about the world you should become a doctor right they're trying to state something about what they believe to be true about your life you can only be happy if you own a fancy new car or buy a nice pair of shoes again that's a claim somebody's making a statement about how they think you can be happy so there are various different types of claims right but all claims are saying something about the world issues that are questions that are meant to be answered and in particular they are questions regarding the validity of a claim so if somebody says something like you need to use an umbrella the issue then is whether or not that's true do you really need an umbrella today right so the issue is the question of the validity of a claim in more layman's terms the issue is you know whether or not the claim is true so if somebody says you should become a doctor the issue is whether or not you should write should you become a doctor somebody says you can only be happy if you own a fancy new car or buy a nice pair of shoes well the issue is whether or not that claim is true will you really be happy only if you own a fancy new car or buy a nice pair of shoes mm-hmm so let's go ahead and practice a little bit I'll give you a series of sentences and then think about whether or not these sentences are claims and if they are claims you know what are what's the issue here so if I'd said something like Brad Pitt is uglier than Gollum from Lord of the Rings is that a claim if I said do you like strawberries is that a claim if I said Shaquille O'Neal is taller than Kobe Bryant is that a claim if I said Sam should be excused from missing class isn't that a claim if I said you'll make lots of money if you buy that nail salon down the street am I making a claim so before we move on let's go ahead and take a look B's Brad Pitt is uglier than Gollum from Lord of the Rings okay somebody is making a statement about the world right so it is a claim so what would the issue be well the issue be whether or not that claim is true is Brad Pitt uglier than gong if I asked do you like strawberries I'm not saying anything about the world I'm just asking a question so it's not a claim mm-hmm if I said Shaquille O'Neal is taller than Kobe Bryant I am making a claim some sort of factual statement about the world so then the issue would be is Shaquille O'Neal dog if I said Sam should be excused for missing class that is a claim saying Sam should be excused for missing class is surety or if Sam should she will you lots of money if you buy that nail salon down the street okay so I'm making your claim to somebody about what they should do or what would happen if they bought them the salon right so I'm making a plain the issue then would be will you make a lot of money if you buy that nail salon okay so then this all leads us to the idea of an argument all right so basically in our class our classes you know if you want to boil it down to the technical stuff it's really about arguments about how to analyze them how to determine what what they are how they work you know if somebody's talking to us you know what is the argument they're making when we make decisions and choices for our lives you know what what's the argument we are using to to support whatever choice we're thinking of doing it's useful to think of what the argument is so we can clearly see what it is we're trying to so they can clearly see why it is we are making the choices that we are making so what is an argument well when people often talk about what an argument is or when they talk about arguments they often think about conflict and you know yelling and opposition that's not how we take a look at arguments in our class right formally that is not an argument formally an argument is a set of claims providing reasons for believing that a claim is true but somebody makes a claim Shaquille O'Neal is tall Kobe Bryant okay well what's the proof you can say something like I measured Shaquille O'Neal's height I know Kobe Bryant side right so from my measurements it seems obvious that Shaquille is taller than Kobe well then I just gave you an argument I gave you reasons two reasons different claims to support my main claim that one person is taller than the other so hopefully you can see then that all arguments will have two components to them they'll have reasons to believe a claim is true so that's those are premises anytime you are given reasons to believe something is true those are the premises to believe a conclusion the conclusion is the main claim somebody's trying to convince another person of believing in another way of thinking about conclusion is the conclusion is the answer to the issue right so arguments made up of claims one claim is the main claim that somebody is wanting us to believe or that we want somebody else to believe and there's at least one other claim that's used to support the main claim okay so let's take a look at this Sam's grandmother died and he has to attend the funeral so Sam should be excused for missing class okay we'll ask yourself you know what's the main point here what is it what's the claim that's being supported by the other claims and it seems to be the case that the main point that's being expressed that Sam should be excused for missing class right that's the conclusion right the issue here is whether Sam should or should not be excused and the answer is according to this argument Sam should be excused now we see in the first sense the reasons given why we should believe Sam should be excused Sam's grandmother died and he has to attend the funeral that's the reason given that's the claim that's given to show and support the conclusion that Sam should be excused for missing class okay so again the issue is just the question of whether or not the main claim is true in this case the main claim being Sam should be excused for missing class so the question is should Sam be excused okay let's try another one it is raining in Santa Cruz right now so you should use an umbrella today okay so again we take a look there's a couple claims here there's a claim that it's raining in Santa Cruz right now and there's a claim that you should use an umbrella today we'll take a look two different claims which is the main claim which is a claim that's being supported by the other claim well it looks like what they're trying to tell us is that you should use an umbrella today that's what they're trying to prove to us you should use an umbrella today and what they're using to convince us that we should have used it involved today is the claim that it's raining in Santa Cruz right now so we say then that the premise is that it's raining and Santa Cruz right now and with that we should then believe the conclusion you should use an umbrella today well what's the issue well the issue again is the question of whether or not that main point that conclusion is true should you use a number all today okay so hopefully that makes some sense let's see we just did that one good way okay so what I want to do is take a look at exercise 1-6 in your textbook and then take a look at questions one two three six and eight okay pause the video which is preferred well you do this answer exercise one – six numbers one two three six eight and then come back restart it and go through the answers with me to see how well you did okay all right hopefully you had a chance to look through those exercises now the passages I'll post on so you can see them walk through them and the question is is there an argument here right remember an argument has to have two parts to it it has to be a main point right the conclusion and there has to be some reason given to believe that main point to believe that conclusion so bass be a premise to help us believe that conclusion if there is an argument ask you to then identify what the conclusion is of the argument okay so number one the directory of intentional communities lists more than two hundred groups across the country organized around a variety of purposes including environmentally aware living is there a main point that's supported by another is there a main claim that's supported by another clan the direct koream intentional communities lists more than two hundred groups across the country organized a round of variety purposes including environmentally aware living there doesn't seem to be a claim supporting another claim right so there is no argument here number two Carl would like to help out but he won't be in town we'll have to find someone else who owns a truck okay so we see that Carl would like to help out but he won't be around okay that's that's a claim and then we see another claim well we'll have to find someone else it was a truck hopefully it's obvious that that second sentence is kind of the main point that somebody's trying to tell us hey we should find somebody else who will have to find somebody else stealing a truck well why what's the reason given the reason given is that Carl would like to help but he's not in town right so the first sentence is the premise to support the second sentence which is the conclusion hopefully that makes sense number three in 1976 Washington DC passed in ordinance prohibiting I had ownership of firearms since then Washington's murder rate has shot up 121 percent bans on firearms are clearly counterproductive so there's a few clams in here right there's this claim about an ordinance that was passed prohibiting private ownership of firearms that's an ordinance where you can't privately owned firearms there's a claim that says Washington's murder rate has shut up 121 percent since then and then there's another claim that says bans on firearms are clearly counterproductive now is there is there a relationship here between these claims is there a main claim that's being supported by the others in this case there is hopefully you notice that the main point that there this person's trying to convince us to believe it is that bans on firearms are clearly counterproductive right well why should we believe that what's the reason where the premises first is that there was an ordinance passed prohibiting private ownership of firearms and second claim is that since then the murder rate has shot up I don't want 121 percent therefore right that those are the reasons therefore to believe that bans and firearms are clearly counterproductive so it's obvious hopefully that there is an argument with the conclusion being that last sentence and just to refresh your memory what's the issue then well the issue is whether or not that conclusion is true the issue is the question that this person is answering the question being hey is our bans on firearms counterproductive the answer this person gives is yes bans on firearms are clearly found productive this may not be the best argument in fact arguments don't need to necessarily be good valid strong in order to be an argument right you have lots of poorly made arguments but this is an argument number six like short-term memory long-term memory retains information that is encoded in terms of sense modality and in terms of linking with information that was learned earlier that is meaning okay there are claims here right there's a claim that like short-term memory long-term memory contains information that is encoded in terms of sense modality and in terms of links with information that was learned earlier but is there a point that's being supported by another claim in this case somebody is just explaining to us something somebody is just explaining to us what short-term memory is like right so it's not really an argument here now this is a really critical distinction you know when we talk we may give reasons to believe something and it not mean somebody's providing to us an argument somebody could just be explaining how something works somebody could just be explaining how something is it could be explaining a phenomena right if I said to you there is a strange odor in the kitchen because Sally took off her shoes well really not giving an argument to believe anything right I'm not trying to convince you there's an order here you can smell the odor so it's not an argument I'm just explaining where the odor comes from so that would be just giving an explanation so in you know in cases of explanations we we don't necessarily need to identify premises and conclusions and we would have to do our analysis that we'll be learning in class they determine whether or not something is true because other times an explanation is just somebody trying to give us the facts out how something works or the reasons why something is the way we are experiencing it an argument is some sort of claim that's not you know firsthand verifiable and then they provide to us reasons for believing that Klan okay so here what we see is moment explanation just trying to somebody trying to explain to us how short-term memory is it's not really an argument number eight it may be true that people not guns kill people but people with guns kill more people than people without gun as long as the number of lethal weapons in the hands of the American people continues to grow so will the merderet okay so there's a few claims in here it may be true that people not guns kill people that's a claim people with guns kill more people than people without guns that's a claim as long as the number of lethal weapons in the hands are emerging people continues to grow so will the murder rate that's a claim so is there a relationship with these claims is there a main claim that's being supported by other claims in this case sure there is right this last sentence as long as a number of lethal weapons in the hands of the American people continued to grow you can't say my fire house using my laser pointer to point at the screen which you can't see as long as a number of lethal weapons in the hands of the American people get seems to grow so will the murder rate okay well that's that's a claim that's this person is trying to convince us as is true in how they convince us well the first two sentences are ways in which they are trying to convince us that is true people with guns kill more people the people without guns okay that's primarily the premise for believing the person now again it may not be the best argument in the world there's no facts presented but it's still an argument because there is some claim given to believe another claim okay now why is it or to determine if there is an argument well one if we can see that there is an argument then we can better evaluate the reason why somebody is believing something right this is especially true when we're trying to figure stuff out first out all right you read the paper or you see some talking head on TV can you identify if what they're saying is an action or the argument because if you can then maybe you give yourself a better shot at figuring out if you want to believe what they're saying this helps us then avoid persuasion through rhetoric again if you think about talking heads on TV political pundits oftentimes they're not trying to convince us or even politicians oftentimes they're not trying to convince that something is true using logic and reason per se oftentimes they use rhetoric they try to appeal to our emotions in our psychology to make us feel a certain way in order to believe their claim as opposed to giving us actual reasons right factual claims to support what it is they're trying to convince this is true thirdly it's really important to determine if there's an argument because when somebody is talking to us if we can identify that what they're saying is an argument we can better understand them and where they are coming from this not necessary is about finding out truths and facts but more about your empathizing with somebody trying to get a sense of who they are and how they think that is a useful way of deepening our connections to another so if you had difficulty with these practices these exercises just remember an argument has two parts so if you see one sense not an argument okay I should say differently if you see just a one claim not an argument right it has to at least be two you should at least be two claims one main claim and then a claim that supports it right there has to be some conclusion some answer to the issue at hand and there has to be some reason some claim to support that conclusion for premise conclusion so here is a way to think about approaching determining if an argument exists is there a main point to it is there a main point to what this person saying their main point to what you're reading okay so if there's a main point maybe you have a conclusion here now are there reasons that are given to understand or to believe that this main point if there are reasons given to believe the main point then you have a premise and then you have an argument if you don't see any reason given to believe the main point not an argument okay now you know the way we often talk to each other and the way we write people don't explicitly lay out arguments very clearly right just think about any discussion you've had with a friend lately about what to do where to go eat who to hang out with what you should buy with your with the money or from your paycheck right think about any discussion had with friends you'll never you'll hardly ever hear somebody say okay here's my conclusion about what we should do and here are my premises for believing it alright so we talked you know very organically and fluidly so oftentimes is more than just one way of understanding what somebody saying in other words there may not just be one obvious argument being presented to you it could be a combination of various arguments being presented to you that kind of all meld together so just something to keep in mind right human beings are a complicated a lot and the idea here isn't to make us all computers and present arguments to one another conversation but to have a better ear to understand somebody when we're talking to each other now if those hints don't help here are words you can use as a guideline to kind of see if a conclusion is there or if a premise is there so these should not be foreign to you because I bet when you write your papers you use these words right when you're trying to make a point your conclusion to something you'll might write or say you know then it follows that and then you have your conclusion or this shows that blink-blink-blink is true if somebody says the word thus followed by statement that's using their conclusion right thus Tom should wear higher heels hence Sally should buy a new sports coat right so consequently you should spend less money the day after you get your paycheck accordingly this is true so this must be true my conclusion is which is very obvious set of words right or which I see a lot in papers is therefore therefore this must be true so all of these sorts of terms are kind of hints that somebody is telling you what their conclusion is right what the main point is and then there are also some words that are often associated with premises you know reasons to believe these things you know since Joe makes only $5 an hour it follows that he doesn't have a good job right so since gives us the premise for gives us a premise because blank blank blank blank blank is true therefore you should leave something else right so because leads us usually to a premise in view of the fact that pizzas are in high demand then you should open up a pizza shop right so in view of pizzas are in high demand meaning that's the premise collusion you should open up a pizza shop this is implied by that usually leads to a premise given that something is true you should believe this so given aqua beats to a premise okay these are just kind of linguistic tricks knowing how human beings in the English world often speak that you can use to identify what the conclusion is or what the premises are hopefully as you go through all the exercises throughout our term you'll become more second nature to you right to see and identify different parts of the argument okay so in our next lecture we'll talk about different types of claims because sometimes there are claims that don't really need to be answered right there in other words there some types of claims that there's really no may not necessarily be a right or wrong answer to whether or not they're true and we'll take a look more at how to identify an issue okay

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