Logical Analysis


1. A claim is controversial if even one person involved in the dispute does not explicitly agree that it is true.
2. Any person making a controversial claim bears the burden of supporting that claim with an argument.
3. Any controversial claim that is asserted without a supporting argument should NOT be treated as true in your analysis.
4. Controversial claims with supporting arguments should still not be regarded as true unless the argument is a logically good argument.
5. The only way to tell if an argument is good or bad is to do a logical analysis of the argument.

Logical analysis

If you have more than one argument to deal with, do each argument on it's own.

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 proponent 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 results.

   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.

             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.)


   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 animals.
   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, including humans, shouldn't be allowed on 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 since it doesn't work in all contexts.
  10. Also, while it does have an underlying "justification", but that "justification" would also justify a bad thing, so it's not really a justification.

Summary: 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.

If you have time to review a more complicated example, read Time Travel Argument.

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