Logic and Critical Reasoning
short paper #2

Due in class Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010.

"Could you be more wrong?"

For the second short paper, you will locate an argument whose conclusion you disagree with in an online source (like a blog post or op-ed piece) and write a short (500 words) paper that reconstructs and evaluates that argument. The second short paper will count for 10% of your course grade.

Locating an argument: The blogosphere is awash with pieces that people have written given reasons to support their views. The discussions section of our class Desire2Learn shell contains a forum called "Arguments in the wild." Create topics in this forum to share online sources with arguments (and to discuss these arguments with your classmates). Be sure to include links to the sources you share!

If you're having a hard time finding arguments online, you might try:

Make sure you find a source that really presents an argument! Also, make sure it's an argument whose conclusion you disagree with.

Reconstructing the argument: You can find a detailed discussion of how to reconstruct an argument here. Your goal is to spell out the premises and the conclusion, and to be able to explain the logical connections between the premises and conclusion. I'm not asking you to diagram the argument! Listing the premises and conclusions should be enough. It's a good idea to present the steps of the argument in a numbered list and in your own words (rather than quoted from the original argument).

Evaluating the argument: Here, since you are discussing an argument whose conclusion you do not accept, you will want to explain why you don't accept it.

First, though, you need to explain why the argument seems reasonable to the person putting it forward. What additional unstated assumptions do you think he or she could be making that would make the stated assumptions more plausible? What kind of logical connections does the person making the argument assume? Why would someone find this conclusion, or this way of arguing for it, appealing?

Then, you need to explain what you see as the problems with this argument. Which premises are fishy or clearly false (and how do you know)? What problems do you see with the logical structure of the argument? What informal fallacies does the argument commit? What objections or counterarguments can you raise to it?

Cite your sources: For this paper, since you are reconstructing an argument from a single source, you will probably only need to cite that one source. Here is a guide for the proper citation of online sources.


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