A logical analysis goes like this.
First, separate the argument(s). You will be doing each argument on it's
own, so I suggest you put each argument on a different piece of paper.
Then, for each argument, write a paragraph, or a page, or a short paper,
in which you do the following.
1. Write out the argument as clearly, as precisely, and as
fairly as you can. (Write it the way a proponant would want it written.)
2. Explain as clearly as you can what this argument is
supposed to imply for this topic, and how it is supposed to imply it.
(Maybe it's supposed to support the
thesis directly, or maybe it's supposed to answer a counter-argument.)
3. Figure out and explain what logical principle is supposed
to justify these implications.
4. Explain what that logical principle would imply if it were
applied in other contexts. Look for applications that have unacceptable
5. Say whether or not that principle has acceptable results
when applied in those other contexts.
6. Explain how this logical principle is supposed to be justified,
if it has a justification.
7. Explain what else would also be justified by that
justification. Try to find a bad think that it would justify.
8. Say whether or these other things are good or bad.
9. Say whether or not it is a good logical principle.
If it doesn't work in all of those
other contexts, then it's not a good principle.
or if it has no underlying
justification, then it's not a good principle.
If its underlying justification would
also "justify" something bad, then it's not a good principle.
10. Say whether or not the argument is good or bad. (If it's
not based on a good logical principle, it's bad.)
Here's an example.
1. Some people say that cat juggling is morally wrong because
people have a subconscious definition of cats as non-flying animals.
2. This argument implies that cat juggling is morally wrong
because it involves flying cats, and cats are not defined as flying
3. The logical principle seems to be that "non-flying animals
shouldn't ever fly."
4. In other contexts, this principle would imply that cats
and dogs and other animals shouldn't be allowed on airplanes. Also, since
humans are animals, this would imply that humans shouldn't use airplanes
5. These are not acceptable results. People have to fly to
visit their friends and relatives who live far away.
6. The justification seems to be "we should always act
according to our subconscious definitions."
7. Racism would be justified, since some people
subconsciously define other races as inferior.
8. Racism is bad.
9. It's not a good logical principle. First, it
doesn't work in all contexts. Second, it does have an underlying
justification, but that "justification" would also justify a bad thing, so
it's not really a justification.
10. The argument is bad because is not based on a good
logical principle. Basing an argument on a subconscious definition is a
really bad idea. Not everyone has the same subconscious definitions, and
many people have subconscious definitions that are either wrong, morally
bad, or both. Furthermore, even if the subconscious definition was right,
it wouldn't mean anything, because what's moral or immoral doesn't depend
on how things are defined.
The important thing about logical analysis is that you analyze the
arguments as deeply as you can. This means that doing four
arguments can be worse than doing just one argument. If
you do four arguments, but don't get into their logical principles and
justifications, then you will have failed to do a logical analysis, even
if you fill up ten pages talking about those arguments. But if you deeply
analyze even one argument, then you have succeeded, even if you
only fill up a page and a half.
Another way to think about logical analysis is to imagine a conversation
between this author and another person who says either "not true" and "so
what?" to each of these reasons. Imagine that the author tries to come up
with both a reason to support the truth of his claim and
a logical or moral principle to connect that claim to his thesis. If the
author can't prove that his claim is true, then it's a bad argument. If
the author can't show how the claim would support his thesis, then it's a
bad argument. He's got to do both for the argument to work. If he
fails at either one, he fails absolutely. So if you don't see a strong
reason to think that a claim is true, or you don't see how a claim could
support his thesis, then it's a bad argument
Copyright © 2005 by Martin C. Young
This Site is Proudly Hosted