Once we have identified the main conclusion, we can treat the remaining parts of the argument as premises used to support the conclusion.
We now pose the question, Is the above argument a good argument, in the sense previously mentioned (does it give good reasons to accept its conclusion)?
To answer this you should have determined that the conclusion is that one should have working fire alarms in their house.
What are the premises given which support the conclusion? Basically, a story is taken from the news that recounts what almost happened to a household which did not have working fire alarms. Now consider the following questions:
- Is the example typical? Is a rule of behavior taken from a single rare instance?
- Is it good to conclude anything from an exception? For instance, suppose you knew someone who almost died from an allergic reaction to an antibiotic. Should one use that rare case to argue that antibiotics in general should be avoided? If so, then why should one use an exceptional case to establish a general conclusion about having working fire alarms?
- Is it possible that you have confused having a good argument for a particular conclusion (in this case one should have working fire alarms) with the distinct question as to whether you think the conclusion is true (for independent reasons)?
These questions bring out a fundamental point in argument analysis: Many times if you happen to agree with a conclusion before reading the argument, there is a greater chance that you will judge the argument for that conclusion as a good argument rather than a bad argument. This leads to the following two observations:
- When evaluating whether an argument is good or not, it is important to examine the actual argument itself and ignore any previous conceptions you may have about the truth or falsity of the argument's conclusion.
- It is possible that a conclusion is true, even when a particular argument for the conclusion does a poor job in supporting the truth of the conclusion.
If you are taking the online version of this course, return to your LMS (moodle, Canvas, Blackboard, etc) and complete the assignment:
Creating a good argument.