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YCP PHL 222 - Chapter 1: Supplementary Material

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Govier: A Practical Study of Argument 1 Chapter 1: Supplementary Material Some of the most important ideas in this chapter are: 1. Arguments can be given for our beliefs, and the fact that we have opinions and 'have a right to our opinions' does not preclude giving such arguments. 2. These arguments can be better or worse and we can reach informed judgments about what makes them better or worse. 3. To offer an argument for a claim, C, is to put forward other claims, PI, P2, etc, as reasons supporting C. 4. The premises are supposed to support the conclusion; the idea is that one reasons from the premises to the conclusion. Engaging in the process of critical inquiry In their book Reason in the Balance, Sharon Bailin and Mark Battersby define critical inquiry as the process of carefully examining an issue in order to come to a reasoned judgment based on a critical evaluation of relevant reasons. This serves us as a very good definition of what is entailed in critical thinking and highlights what we should be taking away from this course by the end of the semester. Bailin and Battersby provide a very worthwhile framework for understanding the important elements of engaging in the process of critical inquiry. As they suggest, this is often a complex and multifaceted process. Critical inquiry usually begins with an issue, which is why we will often have recourse to carefully, painstakingly, and precisely identifying the issue that is at the heart of a debate, challenge, or controversy. Critical inquiry almost always begins with an issue. If there is no dispute or controversy, that is, no issue, then there may be no need to engage in critical inquiry. The purpose in examining issues, especially issues we care about, is to arrive at a reasoned judgment. As Bailin and Battersby point out: The judgment aimed at in inquiry is not arbitrary; it is not just a matter of unreflective opinion, nor is it based uncritically on what others say. Rather, coming to a reasoned judgment involves critical evaluation. The practice of critical evaluation is also central to inquiry. Reaching a reasoned judgment will involve comparing individual arguments and pieces of information. But it’s more than that. As a part of this process we need to be able to make a comparative assessment of the relative strengths and weaknesses of the competing views in a debate. “This involves knowing the various positions, the evidence and arguments mustered in their favour, the criticism and objections which have been leveled against them, the responses to the criticisms and objections, and alternative arguments and views.” We will sometimes need to give some consideration and attention to the history behind a debate and relevant aspects of the context of the debate. We’ll also have to consider the sources of information and evaluate their credibility. We have to be able to identify fallacious reasoning, consider counter-examples, assess statistical evidence, and learn how to formulate our own arguments. Furthermore, Bailin and Battersby also emphasize the importance of coming to the critical inquiry process with the right “spirit of inquiry,”Govier: A Practical Study of Argument 2 Chapter 1: Supplementary Material including open-mindedness, fair-mindedness, and the awareness of one’s own biases and irrational tendencies. As Bailin and Battersby summarize their approach to critical inquiry: …it is not enough to evaluate only the reasons or arguments which support one position or view. Rather, we must look at all or at least many sides of an issue, evaluate the reasons and arguments supporting different positions, and weigh the alternative strengths of each. They emphasize that critical inquiry has the characteristics of a dialogue, with a number of views or positions in conversation with each other. Bailin and Battersby’s Guidelines for Inquiry • What is the issue? Before we can even begin to inquire, we need to be very clear about what the issue is that we are trying to inquire about. • What kinds of claims or judgments are at issue? It is important to be clear about the type of judgments involved in our inquiries because different kinds of judgments may be evaluated according to different criteria. • What are the relevant reasons and arguments on various sides of the issue? Laying out the various views and positions must include the reasons and evidence which support the positions as well as any objections and responses. • What is the context of the issue? In conducting an inquiry, it is important to lay out the history of argument and debate around the issue as well as other aspects of context. • How do we comparatively evaluate the various reasons and arguments to reach a reasoned judgment? Coming to a reasoned judgment involves evaluating various reasons in comparison to one another. Bailin and Battersby’s Guidelines for Reaching a Reasoned Judgment • Ensure that the relevant arguments, objections, and responses have been identified. • Evaluate the individual arguments. • Establish, if possible, which view bears the burden of proof. • Assess the possibilities in light of the alternatives. • Consider differences in how the issues and arguments are framed. • Recognize points that may be valid in various views. • Synthesize the strengths of different views into the judgment. • Weigh and balance different considerations, values, and arguments. • Consider whether your own personal convictions and experiences may be coloring your judgment. Identifying Arguments What do we mean by “an argument”? When someone tries to put forward rational reasons in support of a claim to persuade others to accept that claim. Govier’s definition: An argument is a set of claims that a person puts forward in an attempt to show that some further claim is rationally acceptable.Govier: A Practical Study of Argument 3 Chapter 1: Supplementary Material The emphasis here is on the intent or purpose behind a passage. Is an author or speaker trying to rationally persuade us of something? The O Word! You should never say “that’s just your opinion.” Opinions can be well-founded, sensible, and credible or foolish and arbitrary. What is important is the matter of evidence. What matters is not whether a claim is a fact or opinion but what kind of evidence we have for the claim. Opinions on important controversial issues can and should be defended


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