Argument isn’t such a bad word. There is a negative term ‘bad argument’ which has now somehow become synonymous for very ‘argument’ itself. But such is not the case in reality. There indeed is a ‘good argument’. In fact, it is the arguments that have advanced humans philosophically and scientifically!
For many years, people have claimed ‘arguments’ as the source where all the knowledge had begun. But later, we understood that there wouldn’t have an argument if we never thought, so it must be thinking where the source of all knowledge is. But the later existentialism pushes existence prior to anything. It is only logical to credit existence as the source.
But initially, arguments were thought to be the source, and such is the value of an argument. And it is not necessarily a bad one. It is through arguments that you would know new things. But there is a form- a structure to it. You can not argue blandly with random utterances. So, what is this form? How to argue in the right way?
Arguments and its components
The sentences you use in arguments, are not mere sentences but propositions. And these propositions consist of terms and not mere words! It might appear to be philosophical mumbo-jumbo, but it isn’t. Arguments are where linguistics, philosophy and mathematics begin their hopeless romance. To begin with, let’s hop on and dive into defining these weird words or should I say, terms?
Terms and Proposition
What is a word? A group of letters that define something is a word. A ‘bottle’ is a word. A ‘word’ is a word! In day-to-day life, we use the words, ‘word’ and ‘term’ interchangeably, but it is a logical blunder to do so. Terms are specific and refer to something particular unlike words which just define and express but not refer! Terms have precise meaning and you know what it refers to just by listening to it or reading it. All the terms are words, but all the words are not terms.
Terms can have multiple words in them. “The legendary filmmaker of 2001: Space Odyssey”, this sentence has many words in them. But the entire sentence is a single term, as it is referring towards a single person. In that way, we can differentiate words and terms. The group of words form sentences. Now what do the group of terms form? A proposition! And not many, but two terms in specific form a proposition.
Propositions are to sentences like terms are to words. Sentences are groups of words that form a meaning altogether. While propositions are sentences that are specific and assert some value! Propositions are not random but have an opinion to them. “Mr.Nobody is a masterpiece”, this sentence is a proposition as it asserts an opinion towards some subject. And those two, subject and the opinion are two terms that exist in a proposition. A subject term is ‘about what the proposition is’ and a predicate term (opinion) is ‘what is the matter told about the subject’. Together a subject term and a predicate term form a proposition.
In the above example “Mr.Nobody is a masterpiece”, the subject term here is ‘Mr.Nobody’ and the predicate term is ‘masterpiece’.
Now as we are forming a pattern here, you must be guessing how terms and propositions are linked to an argument? And a bunch of propositions form an argument! But again, there is a form to do it in the logical way. An argument consists of two sets of propositions. The first set is (are) called Premise(s) and the other as Conclusion. The premise is the logical support (data) you give to make your conclusion stand. They are baseless without each other.
You can not have an argument without both premises and conclusion. You can have many premises but there is only one conclusion. Regardless of the truth or falsity of the conclusion, a valid argument is something that follows this form. The conclusion can be false, but if it is in the form, it is indeed a valid argument.
Premise 1: All X are Z
Premise 2: All Z are Y
Conclusion: All X are Y
Here, in premise 1, X is the subject and Z is the predicate term.
In premise 2, Z is the subject and Y is the predicate term.
This is how you argue in a logical way, by giving out premises, making a conclusion out of it! Or you draw a conclusion and form enough premises to support your conclusion. Without this form, your argument is a bad argument and it leads nowhere. To argue, is to be logical! To be logical, be formal. Let’s get back into finding out the validity of arguments and truth and falsity of propositions next week!