This assessment method is designed to help you see how logic is used (or misused) in everyday life, and thereby appreciate the importance of good reasoning. You are asked to do some fieldwork related to logic. In particular, you are asked to document an argument “in the wild,” that is, an argument someone makes during a debate, a dispute, or a disagreement as you witness it in everyday life. The argument cannot be taken from a book or an article. You may use various mediums to document this “argument in the wild,” such as text, image, audio, or video. Then you should analyze the argument using the logical tools we learn throughout this course. For the first Argument in the Wild, you should write the argument in canonical form and then evaluate it (that is, determine whether the argument is sound or unsound).
Here is an example of what an “Arguments in the Wild 1” submission should look like:
In this video, Ted Cruz makes the following argument: “…climate change is not science; it’s religion. Look at the language where they call you a denier. ‘Denier’ is not the language of science.”
Senator Cruz’s argument in this video can be reconstructed in canonical form as follows:
P1: Scientists who use religious language are not doing science.
P2: Climatologists (or “global warming alarmists” in Cruz’s words) use religious language (e.g., the term ‘denier’).
C: Climatologists are not doing science. (In other words, “climate change is not science.”)
Reconstructed in this way, Cruz’s argument is valid; that is, if P1 and P2 are true, then C would have to be true as well. The question, then, is whether the premises are in fact true. Is the argument sound? It is not clear that P1 and P2 are actually true. As far as P1 is concerned, scientists use what might be characterized as “religious language” all the time. For example, cosmologists and astrophysicists talk about creation when they talk about the origin of the universe and the Big Bang. Does that mean that cosmology and astrophysics are not science?
As far as P2 is concerned, the term ‘denier’ is not necessarily a “religious” term. In a court of law, for instance, a defendant might say that s/he denies the charges pressed against him/her. Does that mean that one is using “religious language”?
Since there are doubts about whether P1 and P2 are in fact true, although Cruz’s argument can be reconstructed as a valid argument, it cannot be said to be sound.
This, then, is how your first “Arguments in the Wild” assignment should look like. That is, you should use the tools of informal logic (in particular, canonical form) to analyze an argument in the wild. You should determine whether the argument is valid or invalid. If valid, you should determine whether the argument is sound or unsound.
Please submit your work on the due date before class. In class, you will be asked to share your “argument in the wild” with the class.
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