Monty Python’s Argument clinic

The boys from Monty Python do it again. In philosophy, an argument isn’t just contradiction, it’s “a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition”. The series of statements are called premises and the proposition they aim to support is the conclusion. If an argument is valid (a good argument), then the truth of the premises guarantees the truth of the conclusion. That is to say, if the premises are true, then the conclusion must also be true.  Additionally, if the premises of a valid argument are actually true, then the argument is called sound. Compare the below arguments.

Premise 1: All Philosophers are attractive

Premise 2: Jean-Paul Sartre was a philosopher

Conclusion: Therefore, JPS was attractive

(Valid – but not sound)

Premise 1: All men are mortal

Premise 2: Socrates is a man

Conclusion: Therefore, Socrates is mortal

Sound – therefore also valid

Of course, some arguments aren’t valid at all, they are just jibberish.

Premise 1: All bicycles make fish

Premise 2: Rolls Royce headlamps

Conclusion: Therefore, Morrissey

(Invalid)

However, other arguments look like jibberish – but are still valid.

Premise 1: All fish ride bicycles

Premise 2: Morrissey is a fish,

Conclusion: Therefore, Morrissey rides a bicycle

(Valid)

Remember, a valid argument is one where if the premises are true, then the conclusion must be true. An argument may have false premises and a false conclusion, yet still be valid. More logic to follow!

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