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Logic, the process from which logical argument stems, is the basis upon which current theories of our world are built. In this lesson, we will explore the concepts relevant to a logical argument by examining the process through examples.

Definition of a Logical Argument

Your co-worker Henry wants to enter a music contest. If he is selected and wins first prize, then he will get a trip to New York in May. Suppose you found out that Henry didn’t go to New York.

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What would be your conclusion? Perhaps you will assume that he didn’t win because he wasn’t selected. The challenge would be to prove your conclusion. A logical argument could help you to prove this conclusion.An argument is the process by which one explains how a conclusion was reached.

Logic is the science that we use to explain or represent a consistent argument about a particular topic. Everyone argues their position at one time or the other and may choose to do so in various manners. However, a logical argument follows certain guiding principles or procedures in hopes of arriving at a desired conclusion. The ultimate goal is to present an idea that is both consist and coherent.

There are four common ways of presenting an argument:

  1. Deductive
  2. Inductive
  3. Abductive
  4. Analogy

Parts of a Logical Argument

Think of scientists. When they are investigating a topic, they first have a hypothesis, then do some tests, make some observations, and arrive at a conclusion. In the same way, a logical argument follows a certain order.

A proposition is the starting point of your argument or the statement that you are trying to prove. For example, suppose you want to argue the point that drinking too much alcohol may cause cirrhosis of the liver. This is your opening statement, also known as the proposition from which you will build. It is the equivalent of a hypothesis.

The premise is the statement or statements that follow the proposition. Your premise is basically your evidence or reasons used to justify the proposition. In our example, you would provide medical studies to show why alcohol could cause cirrhosis of the liver. Just like scientists must do tests and observations to prove that the hypothesis is true or false, a logical argument must present premises to prove that it is sound.The argument’s inference is based on your premise or evidence, you may discover new propositions or statements. This is the process of using evidence to discover new propositions.

After you have completed the cyclic process of stating your proposition and presenting evidence that may lead you to new propositions, then you will arrive at a conclusion.

Examples of Logical Arguments

Example 1:

Let’s refer to our first scenario with Henry. Your friend Henry wants to enter a music contest. If he’s selected and wins first prize, then he will get a trip to New York.

Suppose you found out that Henry didn’t go to New York.Here is a possible solution:Proposition: Henry didn’t win.Premise: Henry didn’t go to New York.Inference: You saw Henry at work in May.Conclusion: Henry wasn’t selected.If Henry is your good friend, and he told you the details about the contest then you could say, Henry told me he didn’t win, and the argument would be over.

However, let’s say that all you know for sure is that Henry entered the contest. Can you prove that he wasn’t selected? There may be loopholes in your argument called logical fallacies because Henry could have been selected in the top 3 but didn’t win. Logical fallacies are common errors in reasoning that affect the logical flow of the argument. In addition, perhaps the trip was postponed until another month, or he declined the trip. Additionally, this is a situation where Henry has to be selected in order to win. When we have to use words such as perhaps in an argument, this indicates assumptions or uncertainties.

Assumptions cause arguments to fall prey to fallacies.On the contrary, one may have the following interpretation:Proposition: Henry didn’t winPremise: You saw Henry at work in May.Inference: Henry didn’t go to New York.Conclusion: Henry wasn’t selected.

This example doesn’t exemplify a logical argument because it falls prey to logical fallacies, but it does exemplify the format of a logical argument. The reason the format of logic is important and helpful is because it allows one do detect fallacies quicker than if the argument didn’t follow any rhyme or reason.

Example 2:

Let’s look at another example: if Peter gets the promotion or boost company sales. If he does both, then he will earn a $4000 bonus. If Peter gets a bonus, then he wants to buy a new car. However, Peter didn’t buy a new car.

Proposition: Peter didn’t satisfy both conditions.Premise: Peter didn’t buy a new car.Inference: He still drives the old car.Conclusion: Peter didn’t get the bonus.As the example suggests, it could be that Peter got the promotion, but he didn’t boost sales. Unlike Henry who had to satisfy both conditions of being selected and winning, Peter could have gotten the promotion because he is a hard worker, but didn’t boost the sales because of economic reasons. In Henry’s case, the proposition couldn’t win without being selected.

In Peter’s case, he could have gotten the promotion but didn’t boost sales.

Lesson Summary

A logical argument is the process by which one follows a consistent method of proving a statement.Types of logical arguments include:

  • Deductive
  • Inductive
  • Abductive
  • Analogy

The method for arguing a position logically requires:

  • Stating your proposition
  • Explaining your premise
  • Presenting your inferences
  • Arriving at your conclusion

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