Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Argument standard form

Earlier this year I took part in a FutureLearn MOOC run by Tim Dare and Patrick Gilard of the University of Auckland, called Logical and Critical Thinking (2020a). This was a very enjoyable course, run over eight weeks, containing some things that I already knew, and including some things that were quite difficult for me to get my head around (argh: moral relativism!).

The course was really well-resourced with lots of video and really clear instruction. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and managed to set aside the time each week to complete: in the words of Tara Brabazon, I "paid myself first" (2020, 40:00). 

However one element - tool - will become a key piece of learning, and that is the idea of putting an argument in standard form (2020b):
"The standard form of an argument is a way of presenting the argument which makes clear which statements are premises, how many premises there are, and which statements is the conclusion. In standard form, the conclusion of the argument is listed last. A standard form looks like this-- premise 1, premise 2, and so on for as many premises as there are-- therefore, conclusion".
I like this form, though identifying and breaking down the key elements of the arguments themselves can be quite tricky. An argument is not a description, and sometimes it is hard to separate what is description, and what is argument (though there is a test for that).

Where standard form becomes more useful is when we present this a little more algebraically, and consider truth against that structure. We can consider an arguments' parts as:
P1   If A is true, then B is true
P2   A is true
C.   B is true.
I think I will write a little more on this at some point, as I reflect on the learning.



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