Extra Credit Homework

Due Thursday, September 29, 2016

Watch the Presidential debate on Monday. Listen for an argument given by one of the candidates. Formalize the argument as best you can: write down all explicitly stated premises, write down the conclusion that the candidate is attempting to draw, and use propositional variables to show the structure of the argument. Determine if that argument uses one of the valid inference rules we discussed in class (modus ponens, modus tollens, double negation or disjunctive syllogism). See if the argument is an example of one of the logical fallacies discussed in class (affirming the consequent, negating the antecedent, ad hominem, appeal to authority, or the association fallacy).

Be aware: sometimes speakers will leave conclusions unstated as a rhetorical device. In that case, write down what you think the conclusion the candidate is attempting to get the listener to make for him/herself. Also, often times some premises will also be left unstated, either as a rhetorical device or because it may point to a flaw in the argument. Make sure to make a note of whether this occurs in the argument, and whether including the unstated premises strengthens or weakens the argument in your opinion.

When you have done all this, type it up (1-2 pages double spaced) with some background on the issue at hand (ie, tell me if the argument is about gun control, homeland security, foreign policy, economics, and give me the context of the particular question that the candidate is responding to). Include the formal analysis above (the more you can formalize the argument, and the more you analyze the formal structure of the argument, the more extra credit I will give out). Once you have included the formal analysis, also discuss how believable the premises (stated and unstated) are. Discuss the opponents’ stance on that issue as well (though you only need to formalize one side). By the end, I’d like you to tell me, regardless of which side of the issue you stood beforehand, whose argument you felt is stronger from a logical perspective and why you felt that way. If both arguments about this issue are logically problematic, then feel free to state that instead (and again, why you felt this way).

The amount of extra credit awarded is based on three factors:

Formal analysis: (up to 4 points) Did you clearly state the premises and the conclusion of the argument? Did you use propositional variables, clearly what statement each variable represents, and write the form of the argument in terms of propositional variables? Did you identify unstated premises? Did you determine whether the argument used any of the valid inference rules or followed one of the fallacies?

Context: (up to 1 point) Did you provide the context of the question? Did you provide the opponent’s stance on the issue? Did you analyze which candidate’s argument is stronger?

The amount of extra credit you earn (up to 5 points) will be added to your midterm grade.