CRIT THINKING ABOUT MORAL PROB
CRIT THINKING ABOUT MORAL PROB PHIL 201
Virginia Commonwealth University
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This 10 page Class Notes was uploaded by Gia Wyman on Wednesday October 28, 2015. The Class Notes belongs to PHIL 201 at Virginia Commonwealth University taught by Mikhail Valdman in Fall. Since its upload, it has received 32 views. For similar materials see /class/230678/phil-201-virginia-commonwealth-university in PHIL-Philosophy at Virginia Commonwealth University.
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Date Created: 10/28/15
Arguments An argument is a statement or a series of statements intended to establish a conclusion Or as previously explained an argument is a piece of reasoning wherein some claims the premises are presented in support of some other claim the conclusion An argument s conclusion is that which the argument seeks to prove The statements presented in support of the conclusion are called premises When presented with an argument always begin by determining its conclusion Sometimes this is very easy like in the following case We need to move to a government run health care system We have too many people without health insurance and medical costs are spiraling out of control Sometimes not enough information is given to determine the conclusion such as here Jim is a jerk He never returns my phone calls Sometimes the conclusion is not explicitly stated but is nevertheless evident The Petro PickMeUp is the most powerful vacuum on the market It never breaks And if you act now you can get one for just half its retail price But wait If you order one in the next 10 minutes we ll even throw in a framed photograph of the Petro in action at no additional cost This photograph is not available in stores and it can be had only through this exclusive onetime offer As we saw last time it s not always clear whether some passage is an argument and even if it is an argument it is not always clear what it is saying This is due in part to vagueness in the language especially the written language and to the fact that people often don t realize that their words can be interpreted in different ways When philosophers confront unclear passages they employ a principle of charity which says that we should interpret arguments in a way that makes our opponent s views as plausible and defensible as possible Consider Senator A I support free speech rights and that s why I m against laws that would criminalize pornography Senator B Well if you re such a big fan of free speech then I suppose you see nothing wrong with falsely accusing your enemies of being child rapists of encouraging people to assassinate political leaders or of yelling fire in a crowded theater Here B is both misrepresenting A s argument and he is being deeply uncharitable in his interpretation of A s Views on free speech Indeed here B has set up a straw man Analyzing Arguments Good arguments have good reasoning and true premises These two features are independent of each other Arguments can have good reasoning but false premises and they can have true premises but bad reasoning Here is an argument with true premises but bad reasoning I All dogs are mammals 2 All cats are mammals 3 Therefore all dogs are cats The reasoning is bad here not because the conclusion is false but because the premises don t support the conclusion If an argument is a bad one it can be bad for only two reasons either it has one or more false premises or it has bad reasoning or both Assessing reasoning To test the quality of an argument s reasoning ask yourself whether the truth of its premises would guarantee the truth of its conclusion When an argument s premises if true would guarantee the truth of its conclusion we say that the argument is valid When an argument is both valid and has true premises we say that it is sound A valid argument is such that were its premises to be true its conclusion would have to be true Technical definition of validity an argument is valid if it is impossible for its premises to be true and its conclusion to be false The following argument is valid but not sound 1 All tigers can sing show tunes 2 Anything that can sing a show tune can stand on its head 3 Therefore all tigers can stand on their heads The above argument has false premises but contains excellent reasoning It is valid because ifl and 2 were true 3 would have to be true Are these arguments valid 1 If Joe thinks that Family Guy is funny then he s an imbecile 2 Joe is no imbecile 3 Therefore Joe does not think that Family Guy is funny 1 All tigers have claws 2 No cats have claws 3 Therefore no tigers are cats 1 If Theodore Roosevelt was our second greatest president then Abraham Lincoln was our greatest president 2 Theodore Roosevelt was not our second greatest president 3 Therefore Abraham Lincoln was not our greatest president 1 Some birds are sparrows 2 Some sparrows are blue 3 Therefore some birds are blue Obj ecting to an Argument Last time we examined the following argument Me Laura are you aware that your boyfriend Steve has terrible hygiene is extremely rude to your friends and cheated on you with your sister Here s the reconstruction or the schematic 1 Steve has terrible hygiene 2 Steve is extremely rude to your friends 3 Steve cheated on you with your sister 4 Therefore you should break up with Steve Suppose that when confronted with this argument Laura replies that a Steve now uses soap on a regular basis b I ve asked my friends about Steve and they don t think he s rude c He was very drunk when he slept with my sister Which one of these replies is not like the other two in an important respect Consider the following replies to the seller of the Petro PickMeUp The Petro PickMeUp is the most powerful vacuum on the market It never breaks And if you act now you can get one for just half its retail price But wait If you order one in the next 10 minutes we ll even throw in a framed photograph of the Petro in action at no additional cost This photograph is not available in stores and it can be had only through this exclusive onetime offer 1 I heard the Petro breaks all the time 2 Even at half price the Petro still costs more than other leading brands 3 I already have ve framed photographs of the Petro in action 4 Isn t the Simco Sucker even more powerful than the Petro Which of these replies contests the argument s validity and which contests its premises The components of arguments Arguments consist of sentences Some of these are premises and some are conclusions But not just any sentences can be part of an argument Since we evaluate arguments by looking at the truth of its premises and by asking whether its premises if true would establish its conclusion the sentences that make up an argument must at least be capable of being true or false Not every sentence is capable of being true or false For instance questions requests and commands are not capable of being true or false It makes no sense for instance to ask whether close the door is true So this for instance is not an argument 1 Please tell me how to get to New York 2 When is the next bus leaving 3 Therefore put my bags on the next bus Here 1 and 2 are not premises and 3 is not a conclusion Interestingly some think that moral claims must be capable of being true or false because we can use them in arguments Consider 1 Abortion is wrong 2 Anything wrong should be illegal 3 Therefore abortion should be illegal Determining Conclusions When trying to figure out an argument s conclusion pay close attention to whether the author is trying to establish a normative claim or a descriptive claim A descriptive claim is a claim about what is the case A normative claim is a recommendation an evaluation or claim about what should be the case For instance the following are descriptive claims a Water boils at 100 degrees Celsius b The Vietnam war ended in 1975 c Our government spends less than one percent of its budget on foreign aid d George Bush is the tallest president the Us has ever had The following are normative claims a You should drink water every day b The Vietnam war should have ended in 1968 c Our government needs to spend more money on foreign aid d George Bush is a bad president e Fred ought to get a college education The following are both descriptive and normative claims a Bill is a generous person b Fresh spinach is so nutritious c Sally isn t the sharpest tool in the shed d Drinking eight cups of water a day is good for your health Bearing in mind the normativedescriptive distinction try to figure out the conclusions of the following arguments Jill the hike you ve planned for us is 25 miles long over some very hilly terrain It ll be 100 degrees for most of the day and there is little tree cover to protect us There is no cell phone reception and if anything should happen there won t be anyone within reach who could help us Why can t I borrow your car You re not using it and you know that if anything happens to it I will take full responsibility Why shouldn t I cheat on my wife Nobody takes wedding vows seriously anymore and she d probably never find out anyway Assumptions Most arguments contain assumptions An assumption is an unstated premise that is needed to make the argument valid When you reconstruct an argument ie clearly label its premises and conclusions you should make these assumptions explicit Consider Of course he s a Republican After all he s from Texas It looks like Stacy put on some weight And did you notice how at dinner she refused wine and ate only bread I bet she s pregnant Pornography communicates a message so it is a form of speech so it shouldn t be illegal In a valid argument the conclusion is just the premises put together There can t be anything in the conclusion that isn t already in the premises This means that you ll often have to add premises to an argument in order to make it valid where these added premises link up the other premises with the conclusion Reconstructing Arguments Try to reconstruct the following arguments making note of any assumptions I m disgusted by the thought of homosexual sex It s simply unnatural Nature intended for men to sleep with women and women with men not for women to sleep with women or men to sleep with men Hint this argument contains a hidden premise l Homosexuality is unnatural 2 Assumption Everything that s unnatural is wrong C Therefore homosexuality is wrong Child Will the sun rise in the east tomorrow Father Of course it will It rose in the east today yesterday and the day before In fact there has never been a day when the sun didn t rise in the east 1 The sun has always risen in the east 2 The future will resemble the past 7 things that always happened in the past will also happen in the future in exactly the same way C Therefore the sun will rise in the east tomorrow Argument Forms Consider the following argument 1 Bill is older than Nancy 2 Nancy is older than Joe 3 Therefore Bill is older than Joe Notice that this argument s validity doesn t depend on the content of its premises We could switch all of the names around and the argument would still be valid This means that an argument s validity stems not from what its premises say but how they say it It stems not from their content but from their form or structure To find an argument s form just substitute letters ie variables for the particular claims contained in the premises leaving undisturbed the quantifiers eg all some none and the logical operators e g and ifthen not or Make sure to use to same letters for the same statements The form of the above argument is l X is older than Y 2 Y is older than Z 3 Therefore X is older than Z This is a valid argument form No matter what statements you insert for X Y and Z the argument will be valid Validity is a feature of an argument s form rather than its content When determining whether an argument is valid we ignore its content and just look at its form We ask whether its parts logically entail the conclusion Consider another example 1 If Bill thinks that Heather is beautiful then he should get his vision checked 2 Bill thinks that Heather is beautiful 3 Therefore Bill should get his vision checked This argument has the following form 1 if P then Q 2 P 3 Therefore Q This too is a valid argument form You can tell whether an argument form is valid by seeing if it is possible to find a counterexample to it A counterexample involves showing that that form allows you to move from true premises to a false conclusion For instance consider this argument form 1 If P then Q 2 Not P 3 Therefore not Q The counterexample 1 If Bill Jones is a student in this class then he is a VCU student 2 Bill Jones is not a student in this class 3 Therefore Bill Jones is not a VCU student Worksheet Answers 1 Harvard was the best college in 1970 2 Harvard is much better today than it was in 1970 C Therefore Harvard is still the best college This is invalid You could make it valid by adding 3 There is no college that improved more than Harvard did since 1970 l The movie is not over yet C Therefore I can t go to bed Invalid Add 2 I cannot go to bet until the movie is over 1 Sally knew about the murder but didn t report it to the police 2 Sally has no alibi 3 Witnesses place Sally at the scene of the murder C Therefore Sally should be our prime suspect Invalid Add 4 Whoever knew about the murder but didn t report it has no alibi and was present at the time of the murder should be our prime suspect l The Earth is approximately 3 miles from the sun 2 The moon is approximately 1 mile from the earth C Therefore the moon is approximately 4 miles from the sun Invalid Change conclusion to C Therefore the moon is at least 2 miles from the sun 1 If a person has a valuable future then killing him is wrong 2 Joe doesn t have a valuable future C Therefore killing Joe isn t wrong Invalid Add 3 If a person does not have a valuable future then killing him isn t wrong l Nobody told me that the exam was today C Therefore I had no way of knowing that the exam was today Invalid Add 2 The only way I could have known about today s exam was if someone told me about it 1 Good food is not cheap C Therefore cheap food is not good Valid Clearer version 1 If food is good then it is not cheap 2 Therefore iffood is cheap it is not good 1 IfP then not Q 2 Therefore if Q then not P 1 There is no evidence that smoking causes cancer 2 There is no evidence that cancer is harmful C Therefore there is no evidence that smoking is harmful Invalid Smoking could be harmful in ways that are unrelated to causing cancer 2 If thou wast never at court thou never sawest good manners if though never sawest good manners then thy manners must be wicked and wickedness is sin and sin is damnation Thou art in a parlous state shepherd from Shakespeare s As You Like it 1 If one was never at court one never saw good manners 2 If one never saw good manners then one s manners must be wicked 3 If one is wicked then one is sinful 4 If one is sinful then one is damned Cl Therefore if one was never at court then one is damned 5 The shepherd was never at court C2 Therefore the shepherd is damned 1 Senator Yes I accepted campaign contributions from Halliburton and yes they had a contract pending before my committee But there is nothing illegal about that so I did nothing wrong 1 I did nothing illegal A One can do something wrong only if one does something illegal C Therefore I did nothing wrong 2 Student Why shouldn t I buy a term paper I m an English major assigned a paper on physics which I know nothing about and don t want to know anything about 1 If a nonmaj or is assigned a term paper about which he has no interest it isn t wrong for him to buy it 2 I am an English major who has been assigned a term paper in physics about which I have no interest C Therefore it isn t wrong for me to buy this term paper 3 Louisiana State Rep Carl Gunter I fully support the new bill which would criminalize abortion in cases of incest After all inbreeding is how we get championship racehorses l Incest produces good results with horses A Whatever produces good results with horses should produce good results with people Cl Therefore incest should produce good results with people
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