Diagramming Arguments

To understand the inner workings of an argument, we need to know the individual steps leading from premises to conclusion. To isolate these individual steps, we use a diagramming method that employs just two symbols, but is flexible enough to handle arguments of any complexity.

Some of the common argument structures are arguments with:

1. A single premise in support of a conclusion.
2. Several premises in support, either dependently or independently, of a conclusion.
3. Several conclusions following from a single premise.
4. Many steps.

Let us examine each of these.


Comprehension Questions

1 Identify the structure of the following argument.

The claim that the fetus is a mass of meaningless material is refuted by several current practices. Many parents frame sonogram photos taken during pregnancy, and they expose the fetus to music in order enhance its development capabilities.

a) a single premise in support of a conclusion
b) several premises independently supporting a conclusion
c) several premises jointly supporting a conclusion
d) several conclusions following from a single premise
e) a multistep argument
2 Identify the structure of the following argument.

Rome was able to maintain control over its vast empire because it had well-trained soldiers and could deploy them quickly on well-made roads.

a) a single premise in support of a conclusion
b) several premises independently supporting a conclusion
c) several premises jointly supporting a conclusion
d) several conclusions following from a single premise
e) a multistep argument
3 Identify the structure of the following argument.

European leaders are certain that the social unrest due to the austerity budget will not last. The austerity budgets will cause interest rates to decline. This will cause increased economic growth, which will cause tax revenues to increase. This will then allow the social programs that Europeans hold dear to continue.

a) a single premise in support of a conclusion
b) several premises independently supporting a conclusion
c) several premises jointly supporting a conclusion
d) several conclusions following from a single premise
e) a multistep argument
4 Identify the structure of the following argument.

The people of Northern Ireland are fed up with the violence that has wrecked their country. Support for the IRA and for militant Protestant groups is the lowest it has ever been.

a) a single premise in support of a conclusion
b) several premises independently supporting a conclusion
c) several premises jointly supporting a conclusion
d) several conclusions following from a single premise
e) a multistep argument
5 Identify the structure of the following argument.

Violence on TV is the reason why children become desentisized to violence, why children come to imitate violent acts, and why there would be 5,000 less murders without TV.

a) a single premise in support of a conclusion
b) several premises independently supporting a conclusion
c) several premises jointly supporting a conclusion
d) several conclusions following from a single premise
e) a multistep argument


Evaluating Arguments

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