Truth: Of course the premise must be true. False premises support nothing. However, be careful here. That a premise is false, in and of itself, is no reason for thinking that the conclusion is false. Only that the conclusion is not supported by this argument.
Reasonableness: Since the work of an argument is to persuade, one must make use of premises that are acceptable to the general public if one is to persuade the general public (you). It is a weakness of an argument if it makes use of a premise which is controversial, whether, it turns out to be true or not. However, it is not enough to merely claim that a premise is controversial. If you are asserting that this is a claim that the author is being unreasonable and that reasonable people would reject his premise(s), you then must say who the reasonable people are/ or what rational grounds they could give you for rejecting the author’s claim(s).
For Example: Consider the argument
If God exists then this is the best of all possible worlds.
This is the best of all possible worlds.
The premises would supply excellent support for the conclusion if true. In fact, if the premises were true they would raise the probability of the conclusion to 1. There is no way the premises could be true and the conclusion be false. (Formally Valid)
There is a problem with the content of this argument.
It is not the clarity (because the premises are very clear) and not the truth (since I do not claim to know that the premises are false).
The problem is that the first premise is not good because it is so controversial. There are many who reject premise one as false (atheists) or who doubt premise 1 (agnostics) claiming that there is insufficient evidence to know that premise 1 is true. Indeed some suggest that the amount and degree of suffering and evil in the world is sufficient evidence to know that premise one is false.
Therefore, as it stands, the argument is unpersuasive. Thus is does not “work” (as an argument). People who doubt the conclusion will also doubt the 1st premise. And anyone who does not doubt the first premise will in all likelihood, would not have doubted the conclusion in the first place. Therefore the argument can accomplish no persuasive work.
- I want you to begin your paper with something like this as your opening statement:
“The author of the article claims that (insert the conclusion here) and offers various reasons in support of this position. In my paper I shall summarize and evaluate the argument. In the end I believe that it is (successful/unsuccessful) and will explain and defend my assessment.
It would be nice to see something similar in the way of a summary at the end to bookend your essay.
- The paper should be 4-5 pages double spaced in length however, I will not count pages or grade on the basis of number of pages. I will however grade based on completeness of the assignment. Doing an adequate-good paper would only earn and average-good grade (C-B). An Excellent Paper (A) will do more than the minimum. For instance, one might consider implications of the view or how the issue may be resolved.
Here is a rough rubric to follow: You might also look at my colleague’s (Dr. Kenneth Henley) directions to his classes “Writing a philosophy paper for Prof. Kenneth Henley (Links to an external site.)” a link to which you will find on the left hand side of his webpage.