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Fundamentals of Argument

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Why to understand arguments?

To get better reasons to your beliefs and actions

To avoid mistakes in arguments

What arguments are not?

        Fights (verbal fights, yelling)




is an intellectual process for giving reason of your views.

is a connected series of statements to establish a proposition/to understand the proposition e.g. proof of Pythagoras theorem.

an argument is a connected series of sentences or statements or propositions, where some of these sentences or statements or propositions are premises and one of them is the conclusion and the premises are intended to provide some kind of reason for the conclusion.

Purpose for argument:

        Persuading/Convincing___ for changing your belief__ can be done with bad reason

        Justification___ for giving good reason for conclusion__ can only be done with good reason

(Strong arguments do not always persuade everyone.)

Explanation___ give reason of why it happened/true to increase understanding

an attempt to fit a particular phenomenon into a general pattern in order to increase our understanding of why it happened and to remove bewilderment or surprise.

Explanation is not persuasion, or justification, or generalization, or prediction.


Causal___ A causal explanation cites the event that brought about (or sustains) the thing to be explained

Teleological___ A teleological explanation gives the purpose or function of the phenomenon that it explains

Formal___ A formal explanation cites the shape or form of the thing to be explained

Material___ A material explanation cites the material that makes up the thing to be explained

        An explanation in the Form of an Argument:

                General principles or laws

                Initial Conditions

                Therefore, Phenomenon to be explained

Arguments are made of language.

Language is

        1. Important

        2. Conventional

                Semantics: meaning of words

Physical Conditions: volume, pronunciation, and so on

Structural Combination: spelling and grammar


(Example: GIMME PEPPERONI(pizza))

3. Representational___ language cannot change the facts of world

        4. Social

We use language without conscious of its rules.

The rules of language that affect the meaning of the words is important in making arguments.

Linguistic Meaning

Meaning is not a referential description

When a word does describe or refer to an object, it is not necessary that the meaning of that word is the same as the object to which it refer.

Meaning is USE

The meaning of the phrase is given by the way those words are used in normal situations by competent speakers of the language.

Levels of (the use of) language:

        1. Linguistic___ meaningful utterance of words

        2. Speech___ e.g. advising

        3. Conversation___ produce some effect on other

 Linguistic act

        Production of meaningful utterance of words

        Components: meaningful words, grammatical structure, meaningful relation b/w words

Garden path sentences: which do not seem to be meaningful, but are meaningful. e.g. buffalo buffalo buffalo.

Speech act

        With a speech act the saying so that makes you so.

        Examples: apologizing, thanking, promising, inviting, threating etc.

The thereby test: If I say, “I ____”,(in appropriate circumstances) then thereby ____. (if you put verb in the blank and the sentence make sense, the it is speech act.)

speech act works only in the appropriate circumstances.

sometimes when the circumstances aren't right you perform a different speech act and sometimes when the circumstances aren't right you don't perform any speech act at all.

Arguing is a speech act.

Conversational act

the conversational act is the bringing about of the intended effect, which is the standard effect for the kind of speech act that the speaker is performing.

        Use of language to bring about a change to the world.

        Speech acts are associated with particular effects that the speaker intends to bring about.

        Your act is not this conversational act unless, the effect occurs.

        You have to follow certain rule to bring about effects.

        Conversational Maxims:

                Quantity: don’t say too much or too little

Quality:  Don’t say what you don’t believe or what you have no reason to believe.

Relevance: be relevant

Manner: be brief, be orderly, avoid obscurity, avoid ambiguity.

        Conversational implication

conversational maxims work perfectly fine when you're cooperating with the person and trying to give them all of the information that they need for your common purpose with that other person. But if you're not cooperating then you can use them to mislead the other person. And that's the double edged sword of conversational implication.

You can cancel the implication in conversation.

So with a conversational implication, if a certain sentence, P, conversationally implies another sentence, Q, then you can deny Q and P still might be true.

Conversational implication is not logical entailment/implication.

In order to show that the premise is false you have to show that it actually logically entails something that's false then you can infer that the premise itself is false.

Argument Markers:

The use of certain words indicate that some sentences are giving reason for another sentence i.e. conclusion. For example; so, therefore, thus, hence, accordingly.



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