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How Arguing From Facts Isn't Enough

posted: 7.8.11 by Nick Carbone

For something you can use in class this semester, see:

Arguing From the Facts

By Gary Gutting

The key point is that both Taylor’s argument and that of his critics were based on established facts.  Moreover, in each case, the facts did support the conclusions Taylor and his critics were arguing for.

There was no flaw in their logical moves from premises to conclusions.

How, then, could there be something wrong with their arguments?

Gutting, to set up the key point above, analyzes an argument made in the Wall Street Journal by John Taylor, an economist at Stanford, and then counter arguments to Taylor’s analysis.

With that in mind, Gutting goes on to write,

As is inevitable in almost all discussions of complicated political topics, Taylor and his critics are employing inductive arguments.

Therefore, their reasoning is open to question simply by adducing further relevant facts such as pointing out the aging of our population and increases in medical costs, or noting that there could be serious reform of the structure of our welfare system.

Even a strong argument from purely factual premises is open to refutation unless we are assured that it has taken account of all relevant facts.

Gutting’s post is part of series described this way by the NY Times:

The Stone is featuring occasional posts by Gary Gutting, a professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, that apply critical thinking to information and events that have appeared in the news.

The starting point for _The Stone_ is:

The Stone itself is a blog that “features the writing of contemporary philosophers on issues both timely and timeless. The series moderator is Simon Critchley. He teaches philosophy at The New School for Social Research in New York.”

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